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(iLff ^Ifi^.i^Lf^ 



1 

1 




HARVARD 

COLLEGE 
LIBRARY 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



THE BENT TWIG. $1.50 net 
THE SQUIRREL-CAGE. $1.50 net. 
HILLSBORO PEOPLE with occasional Vermont 
verses by Sarah N. Cleghorn. $1.50 net 
THE REAL MOTIVE. $1.50 net 
UNDERSTOOD BETSY. $1.30 net 

A MONTESSORI MOTHER. Illustrated. 

$1.35 net 
MOTHERS AND CHILDREN. $1.35 net 

(with Sarah N. Cleghorn) 
FELLOW CAPTAINS. $1.35 net 



HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
Publishen New York 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE^ 



By 
DOROTHY gANFIELD 

Author of "The Bent Twig^* "The Squi^el•C^•,* 
"Hflltboro People," etc 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 

7918 



PUBUSHER'S NOTE 

This book is fiction written in France out of a life- 
long familiarity with the French and two years' in- 
tense experience in war work in Franc^: It is a true 
setting-forth of personalities and experiences, French 
and American, under the influence of war. It tells 
what the war has done to the French people at home. 
In a recent letter, the author said, " What I write is 
about such very well-known conditions to us that it 
is hard to remember it may be fresh to you, but it 
is so far short of the actual conditions that it seems 
pretty pale, after all." 










COPTRIOHT, f9s8. 

IT 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 



V 



PRINTBD IN THE U. S. A« 



NAHWAT, N. i. 



DEDICATED 

TO 

GENERAL PERSHING 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Notes from a French Village in the War Zone . i 

/The Permissionaire ....... 27 

Vignettes from Life at the Rear Co 

A Fair Exchange 84 

The Refugee iii 

K A Little Kansas Leaven 132 

• rEyes for the Blind 173 

The First Time After 194 

Hats 204 

A Honeymoon . . . Vive TAmerique ! . . . 227 

^La Pharmadenne 259 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE IN 
THE WAR ZONE 

Perhaps the first thing which brought our boys to a 
halt, and a long, long look around them, was the age 
of the place. Apparently it has — the statement is hardly 
exaggerated — ^always been there. As a matter of his- 
torical fact it has been there for more than a thousand 
years. On hearing that, the American boys always 
gasped. They were used to the conception of the great 
age of "historical" spots, by which they meant cities 
in which great events have occurred — Paris, Rome, 
Stratford-on-Avon, Granada. But that an inconsider- 
able settlement of a thousand inhabitants, where nothing 
in particular ever happened beyond the birth, life, and / 
death of its people, should have kept its identity through 
a thousand years gave them, so they said, " a queer feel- 
ing.'' As they stood in the quiet gray street, looking up 
and down, and taking in the significance of the fact, one 
could almost visibly see their minds turning away from 
the text-book idea of the Past as an unreal, sparsely 
settled period with violent historical characters in doublet 
and ruff or chain mail thrusting broadswords into one an- 



2 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

other or signing treaties which condemned all succeeding 
college students to a new feat of memory; you could 
almost see their brilliant, shadowless, New World youth 
deepened and sobered by a momentary perception of the 
Past as a very long and startlingly real phenomenon, 
full, scaringly full of real people, entirely like ourselves, 
going about the business of getting born, being married 
and dying, with as little conscious regard as we for 
historical movements and tendencies. They were never 
done marveling that the sun should have fallen across 
Crouy streets at the same angle before Columbus discov- 
ered America as to-day; that at the time of the French 
Revolution just as now, the big boys and sturdy men 
of Crouy should have left the same fields which now lie 
golden in the sun and have gone out to repel the invader; 
that people looked up from drawing water at the same 
fountain which now sparkles under the sycamore trees 
and saw Catherine de Medici pass on her way north as 
now they see the gray American Ambulance rattle 
by. . . . " And I bet it was over these same cussed hard- 
heads ! " cried the boy from Ohio, trying vainly to ease 
his car over the knobby paving-stones. 

" No, oh no,'* answered the town notary reasonably. 
" The streets of Crouy were paved in comparatively re- 
cent times, not earlier than 1620." 

" Oh, the Pilgrim Fathers ! " cried the boy from Con- 
necticut. 

"And nothing ever happened here all that time?" 
queried the boy from California incredulously. 



i NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 3 

" Nothing/' said the notary, " except a great deal of 
human life." 
; "Gee! what a lot o' that! '* murmured the thoughtful 
1 boy from Virginia, his eyes widening imaginatively. 
After the fact that it had been there so long, they were 
astonished by the fact that it was there at all, existing, 
as far as they could see, with no visible means of sup- 
port beyond a casual sawmill or two. "How do all 
these people earn their living? " they always asked, put- 
ting the question in the same breath with the other in- 
evitable one : '' Where do the people live who care for 
all this splendid farming country ? We see them working 
in the fields, these superb wheat-fields, or harvesting the 
oats, but you can drive your car for mile after mile and 
never see a human habitation. We thought Europe was 
a thickly populated place ! " 

Of course you know the obvious answer. The people 
who till the fields all live in the villages. If you inhabit 
such a cettlement you hear every morning, very, very 
early, the slow, heavy tread of the big farm-horses and 
the rumble of the huge two-wheeled carts going out to 
work, and one of the picturesque sights of the sunset hour 
is the procession of the powerful Percherons, their driv- 
ers sitting sideways on their broad backs, plodding into 
the village, both horses and farmers with an inimitable 
air of leisurely philosophy; of having done a good day's 
work and letting it go at that; of attempting no last 
nervous whack at the accumulated pile of things to be 
done which always lies before every one; with an unem- 



I 

I 



I 



4 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

bittered acceptance of the facts that there are bi 
twenty-four hours in every day and that it is good 
spend part of them eating savory hot soup with one' 
family. According to temperament, this appearanci 
only possible, apparently, when you have lived a thot 
sand years in the same place, enormously reposes or eno: 
mously exasperates the American observer. 

You do not see the cows going out to pasture, or com 
jng back at night through the village streets, becaui 
tiiose farmers who have a dairy live on the outskirt 
of the town, with their big square courtyards adjacet 
to the fields. The biggest farmhouse of this sort i 
Crouy is lodged m the remnants of the medieval cast! 
of the old seigneurs (symbol of modern France!) wher 
at night the cows ramble in peaceably througli the ol 
gate where once the portaillis hung, and stand chewin. 
their cud about the great courtyards whence maraudin; 
knights in armor once clattered out to rob. 

Of course this arrangement whereby country folk al 
live in villages turns inside out and upside down most o 
those conditions which seem to us inevitable accompani 
ments of country life; for instance, the isolation ani 
loneliness of the women and children. There is no iso 
lation possible here, when, to shake hands with thi 
woman of the next farm, you have only to lean out o 
your front window and have her lean out of hers, whei 
your children go to get water from the fountain alonj 
with all the other children of the region, when you an 
less than five minutes* walk from church and the grocery 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 5 

store, when your children can wait till the school-bell is 
ringing before snatching up their books to go to 

I schooL 

I You do not have to wait for your mail till some one 
can go to town or till the R. F, D, man brings it around 
six hours after it has arrived in town. The village mail- 
carrier brings it to you directly it arrives, just as though 
you lived in a city. You do not have to wait for your 
community news till it filters slowly to your remote door 
by the inaccurate medium of the irresponsible grocery- 
boy. The moment anything of common interest happens, 
the town crier walks up your street. At the sound of 
his announcing drum or bell you drop your work, stick 
your head out of your door, and hear at once, hot off the 
griddle, as soon as any one, that there will be an auction 
of cows at the Brissons on Saturday next, that poor sick 
old Madame Mantier has at last passed away, or that 
school reopens a week from Monday and all children 
must be ready to go. And if one of the children breaks 
his arm, or if a horse has the colic, or your chimney gets 
on fire, you do not suffer the anguished isolation of 
American country life. The whole town swarms in to 
help you, in a twinkling of an eye. In fact, for my per- 
sonal taste, I must confess that the whole town seemed 
only too ready to swarm in, on any friendly pretext at 
all. But then, I have back of me many generations of 
solitary-minded farmer ancestors, living sternly and 
grimly to themselves, and not a thousand years of really 
sociable community life. 



6 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

" But if they are country-people who live in these dry- 
looking villages/' asked our American Ambulance boys, 
" what makes them huddle up so close together and run 
the houses into one long wall of buildings that look like 
tenement-houses ? Why don't they have nice front yards 
like ours, with grass and flowers, and people sitting on 
the front porch, enjoying life? You can go through 
village after village here and never see a thing but those 
ugly, stony streets and long, high, stone walls, and 
bare, stony houses, and never a soul but maybe an old 
woman with a gunny sack on her back, or a couple of 
kids lugging water in a pail." 

The best answer to that was to open the door into 
our own bare, stone house, which, like all the others on 
the street, presented to the public eye an unalluring, 
long, gray-white, none-too-dean plastered wall, broken 
by square windows designed for utility only. The big 
door opening showed a stone-paved corridor leading 
straight to what seemed at first glance an earthly Paradise 
of green; an old, old garden with superb nut-trees, great 
flowering bushes, a bit of grass, golden graveled paths, 
and high old gray walls with grapevines and fruit-trees 
carefully trained against them. 

Our American visitor stared about him with dazzled 
eyes. " What a heavenly place ! But who ever would 
have guessed such a garden was in Crouy ! " 

" Oh, but this is not one of the really good gardens 
of the town," we assured him. " This is a poor old neg- 
lected one compared with those all around us." 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 7 

"But where are they?" asked our American incredu- 
lously, his vision cut off by the ten-foot wall. 

At this we invited him upstairs to a lofty window at 
the back of the house, leaning from which he had a 
totally new view of the town whose arid gray streets he 
had traversed so many times. Back of every one of 
these gray-white, monotonously aligned plastered houses 
stretched a garden, often a very large one, always a 
jewel, gleaming, burnished, and ordered, with high old 
trees near the house, and flowers and vines ; and, back 
of this pleasure spot, a great fertile stretch of well- 
kept vegetables and fruit. He stared long, our Amer- 
ican, reconstructing his ideas with racial rapidity. 
On withdrawing his head his first comment was, usu- 
aUy: 

" But for the Lord's sake, how ever do they get the 
money to pay for building all those miles of huge stone 
:walls ? It must cost every family a fortune." 

Upon learning that those walls had stood exactly there 
in those very lines for hundreds of years, requiring only 
to be periodically kept in repair, he sank into another 
momentary reconstructive meditation. 

Then came the inevitable American challenge, the 
brave new note from the New World which I always 
rejoiced to hear: 

"But what's the point of shutting yourself up that 
"way from your neighbors and making such a secret of 
your lovely garden that nobody gets any good of it but 
yourself ? Why not open up and let everybody who goes 



8 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



by take pleasure m your flowers and your lawn and s^ 
the kids playing and hear them laughing? " ■ 

Of course I always went duly through the orthodc 
historical and social explanations, I pointed out that 
was only in comparatively late times — only since th 
very recent event the French Revolution or the begl 
ning of our life as a nation^ — ^that isolated houses in tl 
fields would have been safe; that up to that time peof 
were obliged to huddle together inside the walls of 
town at night as a safeguard against having their throa 
cut; that an age-old habit of apprehension and precauti^ 
leaves ineradicable marks on life; and that it still seel 
entirely natural for French people to conceal their gi 
dens behind ten-foot stone walls with broken bottles < 
top, although for generations the community life h 
been as peaceful as that of any drowsy New EugJ 
village. But, having given this academic explanation, 
went on to hazard a guess that age-old habits of U 
leave behind them more than material marks, like sti 
walls and broken bottles. They shape and form hurt 
minds into tastes and preferences and prejudices^ the 1 
courageous origin of which the owners of the mil 
are far from divining* | 

*'You know/' I said to our boy from home, 
can't understand our open villages with no fences 
walls, with everybody's flowers open to everybody's v 
with our pretty girls showing their fresh summer dr 
and bright, sweet faces to the chance passerby as we 
to the selected few who have the countersign to eni 




NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 9 

.They can't understand it, and they don't try to, for they 
don't like it They don't like our isolated houses. They, 
like all Europeans, apparently like the feeling of having 
neighbors near so that they can enjoy shutting them out. 
They say they like the feeling of 'being all to them- 
selves ' ; they have a passion for ' privacy ' which often 
seems to mean keeping desirable things away from other 
people; they can't see how we endure the * staring eyes 
of strangers.' " 

At this point I was usually interrupted by the boy from 
home who cried out hotly: 

" Well, I hope we won't ever get so afraid of people 
we haven't been introduced to ! I guess we can stand it, 
not being so darned private as all that ! I don't see that 
you need take any less satisfaction in a rosebush because 
it's given pleasure to a lot of work-people going by in the 
morning!" 

On which proposition we always cordially shook hands. 

" And yet, d'you know," added the boy from home, a 
little wistfully, looking down into the green, secluded 
peace of the walled-in garden, "there rmist be some- 
thing kind o' nice about the quiet of it, being able to do 
as you please without everybody looking at you. It 
sort of makes our front yards seem like a public park, 
instead of a home, doesn't it? " 

"Yes," I said sadly, " it does, a little." 

Oh, Europe, Europe! seductive old Europe, ever up 
to thine old game of corrupting the fresh candor of 
invading barbarians! 



lo HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

** But, anyhow," ended the boy from home bravely, 
" I don't care. I think our way is lots the nicest . .. ..j 
for everybody!'' 

Dear boy from home! 

Then we went downstairs and visited our modest es- 
tablishment, typical in a small way of all those about 
us, and although made up of the same essential features 
as those of a small American town home, differing in a 
thousand ways. 

" Why, there are apples on this hedge, real apples ! " 
said the American. " Who ever heard of apples on a 
little low hedge plant? " 

" Those aren't hedge plants," we told him. " Those 
are real apple-trees, trained to grow low, cut back year 
after year, pruned, watched, nipped, fertilized, shaped, 
into something quite different from what they meant 
to be. They produce a tenth, a twentieth part of what 
would grow if the tree were left to itself, but what 
golden apples of Hesperides they are! The pears are 
like that, too. Here is a pear-tree older than I, and not 
so tall, which bears perhaps a dozen pears, but what 
pears ! And you see, too, when the trees are kept small, 
you can have ever so many more in the same space. 
They don't shade your vegetables, either. See those 
beans growing up right to the base of the trees." 

The chicken-yard was comforting to our visitors be- 
cause it was like any chicken-yard; if anything, not so 
well kept or so well organized as an American one. But 
beyond them is a row of twelve well-constructed brick 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE ii 

rabbit-hutches with carefully made lattice gates and 
cement floors, before which visitors always stopped to 
gaze at the endlessly twitching pink noses and vacuous 
faces of the little beasts. I hastened to explain that they 
were not at all for the children to play with, but that 
they form a serious part of the activities of every coun- 
try family in the region, supplying for many people 
the only meat they ever eat beyond the very occasional 
fowl in the pot for a fete-day. They take the place, as 
far as I could see, of the American farm family's hog, 
and are to my mind a great improvement on him. Their 
flesh is much better food than the hog's, and since the 
animal is so small and so prolific, he provides a steady 
succession all the year round of fresh meat, palatable and 
savory, not smoked and salted into indigestibility like 
most of our country pork. In addition, he costs prac- 
tically nothing to raise. This is, under the usual condi- 
tions of the French countryside, almost literally true. 
They are given those scraps from the kitchen and garden 
which hens will not touch, the potato and vegetable par- 
ings, the carrot-tops, the pea-vines after they have 
stopped bearing, the outer leaves of the cabbages, 
and, above all, herbage of all sorts which otherwise would 
be lost. Every afternoon, the old women of the town, 
armed with gunny sacks and sickles, go out for an hour 
or so of fresh air and exercise. The phrase is that they 
va d Vherhe (go for the grass). It is often a lively ex- 
pedition, with the children skipping and shouting beside 
Jtheir grandmother, or one of the bigger boys pushing 



12 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

the wheelbarrow, cherished and indispensable accessory 
of French country life. They take what with us would be 
a ** walk in the country," and as they pass they levy toll 
on every sod beside the road, or in a comer of a wall; 
on the fresh green leaves and twigs of neglected thickets; 
on brambles and weeds — rabbits adore weeds!— on un- 
derbrush and vines. Since seeing these patient, ruddy, 
vigorous, white-capped old women at their work I have 
made another guess at the cause of the miraculously neat 
and ordered aspect of French landscapes. It is an effect 
not wholly due to the esthetic sense of the nation. To- 
ward twilight, the procession of old women and chil- 
dren, red-cheeked and hungry, turns back to the village, 
with wheelbarrows loaded and sacks bursting with food 
which otherwise would have served no human purpose. 
No need to give the rabbit, as we do the hog, expensive 
golden com, fit for our own food, and which takes the 
heart out of the soil which produces it. The rabbit lives, 
and lives well, on the unconsidered and unmissed crumbs 
from Mother Nature's table. 

The rabbit-hutches being near the kitchen, we usually 
went next into that red-and-white-tiled room, with the 
tiny coal-range (concession to the twentieth century) 
with the immense open hearth (heritage of the past) and 
the portable charcoal-stove, primitive, universal imple- 
ment. 

" But you can't bake your bread in such a play-stove 
. as that," commented the American. 

And with that we were launched into a new phase of 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 13 

Crouy life, the close-knit communal organization of a 
French settlement. Since all these country people live 
side by side, they discovered long ago that there is no 
need to duplicate, over and over, in each house, labors 
which are better done in centralized activity. Instead of 
four hundred cook-stoves being heated to the baking- 
point, with a vast waste of fuel and effort, one big fire in 
the village boulangerie bakes the bread for all the com- 
munity. These French country women no more bake 
their own bread than they make their own shoes. In fact, 
if they tried to they could not produce anything half so 
appetizing and nourishing as the crusty, well-baked 
loaves turned out by that expert specialist, the village 
bakeress; and they buy those loaves for less than it 
would cost to produc t them in each kitchen. 

In addition to the boulangerie where you buy your 
bread, there is in Crouy (and in all other French towns 
of that size) another shop kept by a specially good cook 
among the housewives, where you can always buy cer- 
tain cooked foods which are hard to prepare at home 
in small quantities. Ham, for instance. In American 
towns too small to have a delicatessen shop, how many of 
us quail before the hours of continuous heat needed to 
boil a ham, and the still more formidable enterprise of 
getting it all eaten up afterward without a too dreary 
monotony ! I have known American villages where peo- 
ple said the real reason for church suppers was that they 
might taste boiled ham once in a while. In Crouy, back- 
ward, primitive, drainageless community that it is, they 



14 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

cater to the prime necessity of variety in diet with a 
competence like that with which the problem of good 
bread is solved all over France. Every Wednesday morn- 
ing you know that Madame Beaugard has a ham freshly 
boiled. You may buy one slice, just enough to garnish a 
cold salad, or ten slices to serve in a hot sauce for dinner. 
On Saturdays she has a big roast of beef, hot and smok- 
ing out of her oven at a quarter of twelve, and a family 
or two may thus enjoy this luxury without paying the 
usual Anglo-Saxon penalty of eating cold or hashed beef 
for many days thereafter. On another day she has beans, 
the dry beans which are such a bother to prepare in small 
quantities and such an admirable and savory food. She 
is the village fruit-seller, and when you go to buy your 
fruit in her little shop, which is rDthing more or less 
than her front parlor transformed, you are sure to find 
something else appetizing and tempting. Note that this 
regular service not only adds greatly to the variety and 
tastefulness of the diet of the village, but enables Ma- 
dame Beaugard to earn her living more amply. 

In another big operation of housekeeping the simplest 
French country community puts its resources together, 
instead of scattering them. On wash days there is no 
arduous lifting and emptying out of water, no penetrat- 
ing odor of soapsuds throughout all the house, no waste 
of fuel under hundreds of individual wash-boilers, no 
solitary drudging over the washtubs. The French coun- 
try housekeeper who does her own washing brings around 
to the street door her faithful steed, the wheelbarrow. 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 15 

and loads it up; first the big galvanized boiler full of 
soiled clothes, then a wooden box open at one side, filled 
with clean straw, then the soap, a flat, short-handled 
wooden paddle, and a stiff scrubbing-brush. Leaving the 
children not yet at school in the charge of a neighbor — 
for whom she will perform the same service another day 
of the week — ^her head done up in a kerchief, her skirts 
kilted high to let her step free, she sets off down the 
road for the lavoir. I use the French word because the 
institution does not exist in English. 

This is usually a low stone building, with an open place 
in the roof, either covered with glass or open to the air. 
In the center is a big pool of water, constantly renewed, 
which gushes in clean and eddies out soapy, carrying 
with it the impurities of the village linen. Here our 
housewife finds an assortment of her friends and neigh- 
bors, and here she kneels in the open air, in her straw- 
filled box, and soaps, and beats, and rinses, and scrubs 
at the spots with her scrubbing-brush (they never use a 
rubbing-board), and at the same time hears all the talk 
of the town, gets whatever news from the outer worlH 
is going the rounds, jokes and scolds, sympathizes and 
laughs, sorrows with and quarrels with her neighbors, — 
gets, in short, the same refreshing and entire change 
from the inevitable monotony of the home routine which 
an American housewife of a more prosperous class gets 
in her club meeting, and which the American housewife 
of the same class gets, alas! almost never. 

And, yes, the clothes are clean ! I know it runs coun- 



i6 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ■ 

ter to aU our fixed ideas and what we are taught in dm 
mestic-science classes, I don't pretend to explain it biM 
the fact remains that clothes soaped and beaten anfl 
rinsed in cold water, boiled in a boiler over the open fin 
and dried on the grass, are of the most dazzling whitM 
ness. It is just another wholesome reminder that thefl 
are all kinds of ways to kill a cat, and that our own 
natural and inevitable as it seems to us, may not even hi 
the most orthodox* I 

Another such reminder is the fashion in which they 
manage baths in Crouy, There are not (you can hear, 
can't yoUf the supercilious Anglo-Saxon tourist saying, 
" Of course there are not ''?) any bathrooms in the 
houses, nor in the one little inn. And yet the peopl^ 
take plenty of baths, and in big porcelain bathtubs to^f 
bigger and deeper and fuller of hot water than those we^ 
have in our houses. 

Among the many curious little industries of the place 
is the Hablissement des bains. As you go down the 
main street of a morning you stop in and fill up a little 
printed card stating that you wish a hot (or cold) plain 
(or perfumed or sulphur or starch or what not) bath, at 
such and such an hour. The little old woman in charge 
(note that this is another way for a little old woman 
to earn an honest living) notes your hour, and stokes 
up her stove according to the schedule of the day. When 
you arrive you are shown into an immaculately clean tiled 
bathroom, with an enormous tub, lined with a clean sheet 
(it has been definitely decided by doctors that this pre- 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 17 

caution obviates any possibility of contagion) and filled 
with clear, sparkling hot water. You can rent your 
towels for two cents apiece, and buy a bit of soap for 
three cents, or you may bring them from home, if you 
prefer. Of course, being unused to this particular way 
of killing the cat, you feel rather foolish and queer 
to be taking a bath in a community bathtub instead of 
in your own. But the bath is a fine one ; with a cold 
rub-down at the end, there is no danger of taking cold'; 
and as you dress, glowing and refreshed, you cannot put 
out of your mind some such colloquy as this: 

" Yes, of course I prefer a bathtub in my own house. 
Everybody would. But suppose I haven't money enough 
to have one ? At home, in a town like this, you can only 
get a bath, or give it to your children, if you have capital 
enough to buy, install, and keep up a bathroom of your 
own. Here you can have an even better one, any time 
you can spare fifteen cents in cash. Which method pro- 
duces the bigger area of clean skin in a given com- 
munity?" 

You usually end your colloquy by quoting to yourself, 
laughingly, the grandly American-minded remark of the 
boy from Illinois, whose reaction to the various eye- 
openers about him was thus formulated: 

" Do you know, the thing we want to do at home is to 
keep all the good ways of doing this we've got already,' 
and then add all the French ones too." 

We laughed over the youthful self-confidence of 
that ambition, but, as the boy from Illinois would 



i8 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

say, " Honestly, do you know, there is something in it." 

In one of the few large, handsome houses in Crouy 
there is something else I wish we might import into 
America. Very simply, with no brass band of a formal 
organization, secretaries, or reports, the younger girls of 
the town are brought together to learn how to sew and 
cook and keep their household accounts. The splendid 
park which looks so lordly with its noble trees is only 
the playgroimd for the little girls in gingham aprons in 
the intervals of their study; and the fine, high-ceilinged, 
spacious old salon, a veritable Henry James room, is em- 
ployed in anything but a Henry James manner as the 
workroom where all the children from the poorer houses 
round about sit in the sunshine, setting beautiful fine 
stitches and chattering like magpies. 

A large room at the side has been fitted up — oh, so 
long before domestic science "struck" America — as a 
kitchen, and here the little girls daily prepare their own 
luncheons, after having, turn by turn, done the marketing 
and made up their small acounts under the supervision 
of an expert teacher. Their rosy cheeks and bright eyes 
testify to the good training which their own mothers re- 
ceived in this very room, in these very essentials of life. 

The gracious, gray-haired owner of the beautiful home 
has always been so busy with her school and workroom 
that she almost never runs into Paris, although she is not 
more than a couple of hours away. 

" I've only been there five or six times in my life," she 
says, shaking her head in mocking contrition, and turning 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 19 

superb old rings around on her soft, wrinkled hands. 
She adds, with a pretty whimsical smile : " To tell the 
truth, it bores me awfully when I do go. I have so much 
to see to here, that I'm uneasy to be away." 

You are to remember that this has been going on for 
at least two generations. The quiet-eyed chatelaine of 
the manor mentions, in passing, that she is but continuing 
the work of her aunt who lived there before her, and 
who for fifty years gave all her life and property for her 
neighbors' children in quite the same way. When you 
leave you try to murmur something about what two such 
lives must have meant to the community, but this entirely 
unmodern, imradical, unread provincial Frenchwoman 
cuts you short by saying in a matter-of-fact tone, with 
the most transparent simplicity of manner : 

" Oh, but of course property is only a trust, after all, 
isn't it?" 

Will some one please tell me what are the appropriate 
sentiments for good Socialists to feel about such people ? 
There is another ouvroir (sewing-room) in Crouy of 
another sort, where the older girls, instead of being 
forced to go away from home, as in most American vil- 
lages, to work in factories or shops, may earn an excel- 
lent living doing expert embroidery or fine sewing. They 
are well paid, and the enterprise is successful commer- 
cially because the long-headed philanthropist at the head 
of the organization manages to sell direct to consumers 
^as will always be done as a matter-of-course in the 
twenty-first century — instead of passing the product 



20 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

through the acquisitive hands of many middlemen. But 
there is so much to report in detail about this wholly ad- 
mirable and modern imdertaking that I must make an- 
other story of it. It is really curious how often, in this 
little, backward, drainageless French village, an Ameri- 
can is brought to a halt, a long, scrutinizing inspection, 
and much profitable meditation. ^ 

So far you have seen Crouy as it was before the war, 
and as it is now in the brief intervals between the depar- 
ture of a regiment going back to the front and the 
arrival of another with the trench mud still on its boots. 
You have seen the long, gray, stony street filled morning 
and evening with horses and laborers going out to work 
or returning, and in the meantime dozing somnolent in 
the sun, with only a cat or dog to cross it, an old woman 
going out for the grass, or a long, gray American Ford 
Ambulance banging along over the paving, the square- 
jawed, clean-shaven boy from the States zigzagging des- 
perately with the vain idea that the other side of the 
street cannot be so rough as the one he is on. You have 
seen the big open square, sleeping under the airy shadow 
of the great sycamores, only the occasional chatter of 
children drawing water at the fountain breaking the 
silence. You have seen the beautiful old church, echo- 
ing and empty save for an old, poor man, his ax or his 
spade beside him, as he kneels for a moment to pray foj* 
his grandsons at the front; or for a woman in black, 
rigid and silent before a shrine, at whose white face yott 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 21 

dare not glance as you pass. You have seen the plain, 
bare walls of the old houses, turning an almost blank 
face to the street, with closely shuttered or thickly cur- 
tained windows. 

But one morning, very early, before you are dressed, 
you hear suddenly, close at hand, that clear, ringing chal- 
lenge of the bugle which bids all human hearts to rise and 
triumph, and the vehement whirring rhythm of the 
drums, like a violent new pulse beating in your own body. 
The house begins to shake as though with thunder, not 
the far-off roar of the great cannon of the horizon which 
you hear every day, but a definite vibration of the earth 
under your feet. You rush to your street window, throw 
open the shutters, and, leaning from the sill, see that 
all Crouy is leaning with you and looking up the street. 

There, at the turn, where the road leaves the yellow 
wheat-fields to enter the village, the flag is coming, the 
torn, ragged, dingy, sacred tricolor. Back of it the trum- 
pets, gleaming in the sun, proclaim its honor. They are 
here, the poilus, advancing with their quick, swinging 
step, so bravely light for all the cruel heavy sacks on 
their backs and the rifles on their shoulders. Their four- 
ranked file fills our street from side to side, as their 
trumpets fill our ears, as the fatigue and courage of their 
faces fill our hearts. They are here, the splendid, splen- 
did soldiers who are the French poilus. Everybody's 
brother, cousin, husband, friend, son, is there. 

All Crouy leans from its windows to welcome them 
back from death — one more respite. They glance up 



22 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

at the windows as they pass; the younger ones smile 
the girls' faces; the older ones, fathers certainly, lo( 
wistfully at the children's bright heads. There are cc 
tain ones who look at nothing, staring straight ahead 
immaterial sights which will not leave their eyes. 

One detachment has passed; the nmibling has increas 
till your windows shake as though in an earthquake. T 
camions and gims are going by, an endless defile of mo 
ster trucks, ending with the rolling kitchen, lumberii 
forward, smoking from all its pipes and caldrons, wi 
the regimental cook springing up to inspect the progre 
of his savory ragout. 

After the formless tiunult of the wheels, the stoi 
street resounds again to the age-old rhythm of marchir 
men. Another detachment. . . . 

You dress quickly, seize the big box of cigarettes ke; 
ready for this time, and, taking the children by the han 
go out to help welcome the newcomers as they sett 
down for their three weeks' rest. 

I have told you that Crouy has a thousand inhabitant 
There are twelve hundred men in a regiment. Perhaj 
you can imagine that when the troops are there me 
seem to ooze from every pore of the town. There ai 
no great barracks erected for them, you understand 
Somehow Crouy people make themselves small, mo-N 
over to the edge, and make the necessary room. Thei 
are seventy soldiers sleeping on straw in the big ha 
which was before the war used for a concert-room or f c 
amateur theatricals; two hundred are housed in what 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 23 



left of the old salles de garde of the ruined castle, old 
guard-rooms which after five hundred years see them- 
selves again filled with French fighting-men; every 
barn-loft is filled with them; every empty shed has a 
thick layer of straw on the ground and twenty to thirty 
men encamped; every empty stable has been carefully 
deaned and prepared for them; every empty room har- 
bors one or more officers; every attic has ten or fifteen 
men. One unused shop is transformed into the regi- 
mental infirmary, and hangs out the Red Cross flag; an- 
' other sees the quartermaster and his secretaries installed 
at desks improvised from pine boards; a sentry stands 
before the Town Hall where the colonel has his head- 
: quarters, and another guards the fine old house which has 
the honor of sheltering the regimental flag. 
The street, our quiet, sleepy street, is like an artery 
, pulsing with rapid vibrations; despatch-riders dash up 
and down; camions rumble by; a staff-car full of offi- 
cers looking seriously at maps halts for a moment and 
passes on; from out the courtyard where a regimental 
» kitchen is installed a file of soldiers issues, walking on 
I ^gs as they carry their hot stew across the street to the 
' lodging where they eat it. Our green-vegetable woman, 
. that supreme flower of a race of consummate gardeners, 
? arrives at the house, breathless and smiling, with only an 
? onion and a handful of potatoes in her usually well-garn- 
1 ished donkey-cart. 

r *' Que voulejS'Vous, madame?" she apologizes, sure of 
s your sympathy. " The instant I leave the garden, they 



24 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

set upon me. You can't refuse your own soldiers, can 
you ! With my Jacques at the front ? " 

Everywhere, everywhere where there is a scrap of 
cover from the sky, are huddled horses, mules, guns,- 
wagons, and camions. Every spreading chestnut-tree 
harbors, not a blacksmith, but a dozen army mules tied 
close to the trunk. Near the station the ground under 
the close-set double line of trees in the long mall is cov- 
ered to its last inch with munition-wagons and camions, 
and to reach the post-office on the other side of the little 
shady square you must pick your way back of lines of 
guns, set end to end, without an inch to spare. The 
aviators, whose machines wheel ceaselessly over the 
town, can see no change in its aspect, imless perhaps the 
streets and courtyards send up to the sky a gray-blue 
reflection like its own color. Not another trace of twelve 
hundred men with all their impedimenta betrays to the 
occasional German airman that Crouy's life is trans- 
formed. 

Three times a week, in the late afternoon, just before 
sunset, the regimental band gives a concert, in our big 
open square under the sycamores, where, in the softer 
passages of the music, the sound of splashing water 
mingles with the flutes. All Crouy puts on its Sunday 
best and comes out to join itself to the horizon-blue 
throngs, and the colonel and his staff stand under the 
greatest of the sycamores, listening soberly to the music 
and receiving paternally the salutes of the men who 
saunter near him. 



NOTES FROM A FRENCH VILLAGE 25 

Once during their stay there is a prise-d'armes, on the 
square, when the men who have especially distinguished 
themselves are decorated with the croix de guerre. All 
Crouy goes to see that, too — all Crouy means now, you 
must remember, old men, women, little children, and 
babies — and stands respectfully, with tear-wet eyes, 
watching the white-haired colonel go down the line, pin- 
ning on each man's breast the sign of honor, taking his 
hand in a comrade's clasp and giving him on both cheeks 
a brother's kiss. That is a sight the children there will 
not forget, those two, bronzed, grave soldiers' faces, 
meeting under their steel casques in the salutation of 
blood-kin. 

And once there is a mass said for the regimental dead 
in the old, old church. All Crouy goes there too, all 
Crouy lost in the crowd of soldiers who kneel in close 
ranks on the worn stones, the sonorous chant of whose 
deep voices fills the church to the last vaulting of the 
arches which echoed to the voices of those other Cru- 
saders, praying there for their dead, six hundred years 
ago. The acolytes at the altar are soldiers in their shabby 
honorable uniforms; the priest is a soldier; the choir is 
filled with them singing the responses; in an interval 
of the service up rise two of them near the organ, violin 
in hand, and the French church rings with the angel's 
voice of whom but old Johann Sebastian Bach— oh, gen- 
erous-hearted, wise poilu musicians, who hate only what 
is hateful I 



26 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

At the end, suddenly, the regimental music is there, 
wood-wind, trumpets, and all. The service comes to a 
close in one great surging chant, upborne on the throb- 
bing waves of the organ notes. The church rings to the 
pealing brass, thrilling violins, the men's deep voices. . . . 

Ah, when will it resound to the song of thanksgiving 
at the end? 



THE PERMISSIONAIRE 

" What was in the ground, alive, they could not kill/' 

Two weeks after the German retreat from the Aisne 
was rumored, five days after the newspapers were print- 
ing censored descriptions of the ravaged country they 
had left, and the very moment the official bulletin con- 
firmed the news, Pierre Nidart presented himself to his 
lieutenant to ask for a furlough, the long-delayed fur- 
lough, due for more than two years now, which he had 
never been willing to take. His lieutenant frowned un- 
easily, and did not answer. After a moment's silence 
he said, gently, " You know, my old fellow, the Boches 
have left very little up there." 

(Nidart was not an old fellow at all, being but thirty- 
four, and the father of two young children. His lieu- 
tenant used the phrase as a term of endearment, because 
he had a high opinion of his silent sergeant.) Nidart 
made no answer to his officer's remark. The lieutenant 
took it that he persisted in wanting his furlough. As 
he had at least three furloughs due him, it was hard to 
refuse. There was a long silence. Finally, fingering 
the papers on the dry-goods box which served him as 
desk, the lieutenant said : " Your wife is young. They 
say the Germans carried back to work in Germany all 

27 



28 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

women under forty-five, or those who hadn't children 
under three." 

Nidart swallowed hard, looked sick, and obstinately 
said nothing. His lieutenant turned with a sigh and mo- 
tioned the fourrier to start the red tape for the authori- 
zation for the furlough. " All right, I think I can man- 
age a three weeks' 'permission' for you. They're 
allowing that, I hear, to men from the invaded regions 
who haven't taken any furloughs since the beginning of 
the war." 

"Yes, mon Lieutenant Thank you, mon Lieutenr 
ant." Nidart saluted and went back to his squad. 

His lieutenant shook his head, murmuring to the 
fourrier: "Those north-country men! There is no use 
saying a word to'^them. They won't believe that theif 
homes and families aren't there, till they see with their 
own eyes . . . and when they do see. . . . I've heard 
that some of the men in these first regiments that fol- 
lowed up the Boche retreat across the devastated regions 
went crazy when they found their own villages . . • 
Nidart has just one idea in his head, poor devil ! — ^to go 
straight before him, like a homing pigeon, till . . ." i 
He stopped, his face darkening. 

" Oh, damn the Boches ! " the fourrier finished the 
sentence fervently. 

"You see, Nidart is a master-mason by trade, and ' 
he built their own little house. He carries around a , 
snapshot of it, with his wife and a baby out in ; 
front." ; 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 2g^ 

"Oh, damn the Boches!'* responded the fourrier on 
a deq)er note. 

"And like all those village workmen, they got half 
their living out of their garden and a field or two. And 
you've read what the Bodies did to the gardens and fruit- 
trees." 

"Isn't there anything dse we can talk about?" said 
the fourrier. 

Nidart passed through Paris on his way (those being 
before the days of stricdy one-destination furloughs) 
and, extracting some very old bills from the lining of his 
shoe, he spent the five hours between his trains in hasty 
purchasing. At the hardware shop, where he bought an 
ax, a hanuner, some nails, and a saw, the saleswoman's 
viyadous curiosity got the better of his taciturnity, and 
she screwed from him the information that he was going 
bade to his home m the devastated regions. 

At once the group of Parisian working-people and 
bourgeois who happened to be in the shop closed in on 
him S3rmpathetically, commenting, advising, dissuading, 
offering their opinions with that city-bred, glib-tongued 
clatter which Nidart's country soul scorned and de- 
tested. 

"No, no, my friend, it's useless to try to go back. 
The Germans have made a desert of it. My cousin's 
wife has a relative who was in the regiment that first 
followed the Germans after their retreat from Noyon, 
and he said . . .'* 
SyThe Government is going to issue a statement, say- 



30 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

ing that land will be given in other parts of France to 
people from those regions, because it's of no use to try 
to rebuild from under the ruins." 

" No, not the Government, it's a society for the Pro- 
tection of the People in the Invaded Regions; and they 
are Americans, millionaires, every one. And it's in 
America they are offering land, near New York." 

" No, near Buenos Aires." 

"The Americans want the regions left as a monu- 
ment, as a place to see. You'll make much more money 
as a guide to tourists than trying to . . ." 

" Your family won't be there, you know. The Boches 
took all the able-bodied women back with them; and the 
children were sent to . . . " 

'^ Give me my change, won't youl '* said Nidart with 
sudden fierceness, to the saleswoman. He turned his 
back roughly on the chattering group and went out 
They shrugged their shoulders. " These country-people. 
Nothing on earth for them but their little hole of a vil- 
lage!" 

Down the street, Nidart, quickening to an angry stride 
his soldierly gait, hurried along to a seed-store. 

That evening when he got into the battered, dingy, 
third-class compartment of the train going north, he 
could hardly be seen for the innumerable packages slung 
about his person. He pulled out from one bulging pocket 
a square piece of bread, from another a piece of cheese, 
and proceeded to dine, bent forward with the weight of 
his burdens and his thoughts, gazing out through the 



.J 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 31 

dirty windows at the flat farming country jerking by him 
in the moonlight. It was so soon after the retreat that 
the train went no further north than Noyon, and Nidart 
had lived far beyond Noyon. About midnight, he rolled 
off the train, readjusted his packages and his knapsack, 
and, after showing his perfectly regular sauf -conduit to 
five or six sentries along the way, finally got out of town. 

He found himself on the long, white road leading 
north. It was the road down which they had driven 
once a week, on market-days. Of all the double line of 
noble poplar-trees, not one was standing. The utterly 
changed aspect of the familiar road startled him. 
Ahead of him as he tramped rapidly forward, was 
what had been a cross-roads, now a gaping hole. Nidart, 
used to gaping holes in roads, walked down into this, 
and out on the other side. He was panting a little, but 
he walked forward steadily and strongly. . . . 

The moon shone full on the place where the first vil- 
lage had stood, the one where his married sister had 
lived, where he and his wife and the children used to 
come for Sunday dinners once in a while. He stood 
suddenly before a low, confused huddle of broken bricks 
and splintered beams, and looked about him uncompre- 
hending. The silence was intense. In the instant be- 
fore he tmderstood what he was seeing, he heard and felt 
a rapid vibration, his own heart knocking loudly. Then 
he understood. 

A moment later, mechanically, he began to move 
about, clambering up and down, aimlessly, over the heaps 



15 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ■ 

of rubble. Although he did not know it^ he was lookiilfl 
for the place where his sister's house had stood. PreH 
ently his knees gave way under him. He sat down audi 
denly on a tree-stump. The lopped-off trunk besidfl 
it showed it to have been an old cherry-tree. Yeifl 
his sister's big cherry-tree, the pride of her garden. iV 
long strip of paper, one end buried in a heap of bits ofl 
plaster, fluttered in the night-wind. It beat against hil 
leg like some one calling feebly for help. The moofl 
emerged from a cloud and showed it to be a strip oA 
wall-paper; he recognized the pattern; he had hdped hil 
brother-in-law put it on the bedroom of the house. Hia 
sister's four children had been born within the walls ofl 
that bedroom. He tried to fix his mind on those chill 
dren^ not to think of any other children, not to rememl 
ber his own, not to - - * I 

The paper beat insistently and rhythmically againdl 
his leg like a recurrent thought of madness — he ^rang 
up with the gesture of a man terrified, and stumbling 
wildly among the formless ruins sought for the road 
again. ■ 

He walked heavily after this, lifting his feet with an 
effort. Several miles further, at the heap of debriB 
which had been Falquieres, where his life's family hafl 
lived, he made a wide detour through the fields to avoifl 
passing closer to the ruins. At the next, Bondry, wherP 
he had been born and brought up, he tried to turn aside, 
but against his will his feet carried him straight to the 
center of the chaos. When the first Hvid light of dawn 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 33 

showed him the two stumps of the big apple-trees before 
the door, which his grandfather had planted, he stopped 
short. Of the house, of the old walled garden, not a 
trace beyond the shapeless heap of stones and plaster. 
He stood there a long time, staring silently. The light 
gradually brightened, until across the level fields a ray 
of yellow sunshine struck ironically through the prone 
branches of the murdered trees upon the gray face of 
the man. 

At this he turned and, walking slowly, dragging his 
feet, his head hanging, his shoulders bent, he followed 
the road which led like a white tape laid straight across 
the plain, towards — ^towards . . . The road had been 
mined at regular intervals, deep and broad craters 
stretching across it, enough to stop a convoy of camions, 
not enough to stop a single soldier, even though he 
stumbled along so wearily, his cumbersome packages 
beating against his legs and arms, even though he 
walked so slowly, more and more slowly as he came in 
sight of the next heaped and tumbled mound of debris. 
The sun rose higher. ... 

Presently it shone, with April clarity, on Ni- 
dart l3ring, face downwards, upon a heap of broken 
bricks. 

For a long hour it showed nothing but that, — ^the 
ruins, the prostrate trees, the man, like them stricken 
and laid low. 

Then it showed, poor and miserable under that pale- 
goM light, a wretched ant-like procession issuing from 



34 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

holes in the ground and defiling slowly along the scarred 
road towards the ruins; women, a few old men, a little 
band of pale and silent children. They approached the 
ruins and dispersed. One of the women, leading three 
children, picked her way wearily among the heaps of 
stone, the charred and twisted beams . . . stopped l 
short, both hands at her heart. i 

And then the sun reeled in the sky to a sound which J 
rang as strangely from that silent desolation as a burst \ 
of song out of hell, scream after scream of joy, ringing 
up to the very heavens, frantic, incredulous, magnificent 
joy. 

There they stood, the man and wife, clasped in each 
others' arms in the ruins of their home, with red, swollen 
eyes, smiling with quivering lips, silent. Now that the 
first wild cries had gone rocket-like to the sky and fallen 
back in a torrent of tears, they had no words, no words 
at all. They clasped each other and the children, and 
wept, constantly wiping the tears from their white cheeks, 
to see each other. The two older children, a little shy of 
this father whom they had almost forgotten, drew away 
constrained, hanging their heads, looking up. bashfully 
under their bent brows. Nidart sat down on a heap 
of stone and drew the little girl to him, stroking her 
hair. He tried to speak, but no voice issued from his 
lips. His wife sat down beside him, laying her head on 
his shoulder, spent with the excess of her relief. They 
were all silent a long time, their hearts beginning to beat 



.1 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 35 

in the old rhythm, a sweet, pale peace dropping down 
upon them. 

After a time, the youngest child, cowering under the 
woman's skirts, surprised at the long silence, thrust out 
a little pale face from his shelter. The man looked down 
on him and smiled. " That's a Dupre," he said in his 
normal voice, with conviction, all his village lore coming 
back to him. " I know by the Dupre look of his nose. 
He looks the way my cousin Jacques Dupre used to, when 
he was little." 

These were the first articulate words spoken. With 
them, he turned his back on the unfriendly, unknowable 
immensity of the world in which he had lived, exiled, for 
three years, and returned into the close familiar com- 
munity of neighbors and kin where he had lived for 
thirty- four years, — ^where he had lived for hundreds of 
years. The pulverized wreck of this community lay all 
about him, but he opened its impalpable doors and 
stepped once more into its warm humanity. He looked 
at the little child whom he had never seen before and 
knew him for kin. 

His wife nodded. "Yes, it's Louise and Jacques' 
baby. Louise was expecting him, you know, when the 
mobilization ... he was born just after Jacques went 
away, in August. We heard Jacques was killed . . . 
we have heard everything . . . that Paris was taken, 
that London was burned. ... I have heard twice that 
you were killed. Louise believed it, and never got out 
of bed at all after the baby came. She just turned over 



, 



36 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

and let herself die. I took the baby. Somebody had to. 
That's the reason I'm here now. * They ' carried off all 
the women my age unless they had children under three* ] 
They thought the baby was mine." 

" But Jacques isn't killed," said Nidart ; " he's wounded i. 
with one wooden leg, frantic to see Louise and the 
baby. ..." He made a gesture of blame. '^ Louise 
always was a fool ! Anybody's a fool to give up ! " He 
looked down at the baby and held out his hand. " Come 
here, little Jeannot." 

The child shrank away silently, burrowing deeper into 
his foster-mother's skirts. 

" He's afraid," she explained. " We've had to make ' 
the children afraid so they would keep out of sight, and 
not break rules. There were so many rules, so many to' 
salute and to bow to, the children couldn't remember; 
and when they forgot, they were so dreadfully cuffed, or ) 
their parents lined such big fines ..." 

" I never saluted ! " said the boy of ten, wagging his 
head proudly. "You have to have something on your 
head to salute, they won't let you do it bareheaded. So I 
threw my cap in the fire." 

" Yes, he's gone bareheaded since the first days, sum- 
mer and winter, rain and shine," said his mother. 

"Here, Jean-Pierre," said his father, wrestling with 
one of his packages, " I've got a hat for you. I've been j I 
saving it for you, lugged it all over because I wanted my 
boy to have it." He extracted from its brown canvas bag [ ' 
a German helmet with the spike, which he held out ' 



''t 






THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 37^ 

"And I've got something for my little Berthe, too." 
He fumbled in an inner pocket. " I made it myself, near 
Verdun. The fellows all thought I was crazy to work 
over it so, when I didn't know if I'd ever see my little 
girl again; but I was pretty sure Maman would know 
how to take care of you, all right" He drew out from 
a nest of soft rags a roughly carved aluminum ring and 
slipped it on the child's forefinger. 

As the children drew off a little, to compare and ex- 
amine, their parents looked into each other's eyes, the 
deep, united, serious look of man and wife before a com- 
mon problem. 

"Eh bien, Paulette," said the man, "what shall we 
do ? Give up ? Move away ? " 

" Oh, Pierre ! " cried his wife. " You wouldn't f " 

For answer, he shook himself free of his packages and 
began to undo them, the ax, the hammer, the big pack- 
age of nails, the saw, the trowel, the paper bags of seeds, 
the pickax. He spread them out on the clutter of broken 
bricks, plaster, splintered wood, and looked up at his 
wife. " That's what I bought on the way here." 

His wife nodded. " But have you had your breakfast ? 
You'd better eat something before you begin." 

While he ate his bread and munched his cheese, she 
told him, speaking with a tired dullness, something of 
what had happened during the years of captivity. It 
came out just as she thought of it, without sequence, 
one detail obscuring another. " There wasn't much left 



I 



38 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

inside the house when they finally blew it up. They'd 
been taking everything little by little. No, they weren't 
bad to women; they were horrid and rough and they 
stole everything they could, but they didn't mistreat us, 
only some of the foolish girls. You know that good-for- j: 
nothing family of Boirats, how they'd run after any 
man. Well, they took to going with the Boches; but any 
decent woman that kept out of sight as much as she Ic 
could, no, I wasn't afraid of them much that way, unless ; 
they were drunk. Their officers were awfully hard on 
them about ever)rthing — hard! They treated them like \ 
dogs. We were sorry for them sometimes/^ 

Yes, this ignorant woman, white and thin and ragged, 
sitting on the wreck of her home, said this. 

" Did you hear how they took every single thing in i. 
copper or brass — Grandfather's candlesticks, the andi- j" 
rons, the handles of the clothes-press, the door-knobs, j 
and all, every one of my saucepans and kettles?" Her ^ 
voice trembled at this item. *' The summer after that, it [ 
was everything in linen. I had just the chemise I had ^ 
on my back . . . even what was on the clothes-line, dry- j. 
ing, they took. The American Committee distributed \ 
some cotton material and I made a couple for^me and j. 
Berthe, and some drawers for Jean-Pierre and the baby, t 
That was when we could still get thread. The winter } 
after that, it was woolen they took, everything, especially j 
mattresses. Their officers made them get every single 
mattress in town, except the straw ones. Alice Bernard's 
mother, they jerked her mattress right out from under 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 39 

her, and left her lying on the bed-ropes. And M. le 
Cure, he was sick with pneumonia and they took his, 
that way, and he died. But the Boches didn't dare not 
to. Their officers would have shot them if they hadn't/* 

" I can make beds for you,** he said. " There must be 
trenches somewhere, near," — she nodded, — " they'll have 
left some wire-netting in an abri. You make a square of 
wood, and put four legs to it, and stretch the wire-netting 
over it and put straw on that. But we had some wire- 
netting of our own that was around the chicken-yard." 

** Oh, they took that," she explained, — " that, and the 
doors of the chicken-house, and they pried off our 
window-cases and door-jambs and carried those off the 
last days, too . . . but there was one thing they wouldn't 
do, no, not even the Boches, and that was this dirty 
work I '* She waved her hand over the destruction about 
her, and pointed to the trees across the road in the field, 
all felled accurately at the same angle. *' We couldn't 
understand much of what happened when they were get- 
ting ready to leave, but some of them had learned 
enough French to tell us they wouldn't ' do it ' — we 
didn't know what. They told us they would go away 
and different troops would come. And Georges Duvalet's 
boy said they told hint that the troops who were to come 
to *do it* were criminals out of the prisons that the 
officers had let out if they would ' do it ' — all this time 
we didn't know what, and somebody said it was to pour 
oil on us and burn us, the way they did the people in the 
bam at Vermadderville. But there wasn't anything we 



40 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



could do to prevent it. We couldn't run away. So I 
stayed, and took care of the children. All the men vM 
could work at all and all the women too, unless th( 
had very little children, were marched away, off nortl 
to Germany, with just what few extra things they couj 
put in a big handkerchief, Annette Cagnon, she n 
eighteen, and had to go, but her mother stayed v^^ 
the younger children — her mother has been sort 
crazy ever since. She had such a long fainting tf 
when Annette went by, with a German soldier, ' 
thought we never could bring her to Ufa, , . ," 
rough, tired voice shook a moment, the woman rea 
her head again on her husband's arm, holding to 
tightly* *' Pierre^ oh Pierre, if we had known what 
to come, — no, we couldn't have lived through it, not 
of us ! " He put his greats workingman's hand on 
rough hair, gently. 

She went on : *' And then the troops who had h 
here did go away and the others came, and they 
the few of us who were left go down into the celli 
of those old houses down the road. They told us to sJ 
there three days, and if we went out before we'd get si 
We waited for two whole days. The water they 
given us was all gone, and then old Granny Arnoux 
she was all alone in the world, so it wouldn't make 
difference if she did get shot. She wanted to make 
that her house was all right. You know what she thou 
of her house! So she came up and we waited, Anc 
half an hour we heard her crutches coming back on 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 41 

road, and she was shrieking out. We ran up to see. 
She had fallen down in a heap. She hasn't known any- 
thing since; shakes all the time as if she were in a chill. 
She was the first one; she was all alone, when she saw 
what they had done . . . and you know ..." 

Nidart turned very white, and stood up. " God ! yes, 
I know ! / was alone ! " 

" Since then, ten days ago, the French soldiers came 
through. We didn't know them for sure, we were ex- 
pecting to see the red trousers. I asked everybody about 
you, but nobody knew. There are so many soldiers in 
an army. Then Americans came in cars and brought us 
bread, and blankets and some shoes, but they have leather 
sdes and I make the children keep them for best, they 
wear out so. And since then the Government has let 
the camions that go through to the front, leave bread 
; and meat and once a bag of potatoes for us. The pref et 
, came around and asked if we wanted to be sent to a 
[ refugee home in Paris or stay here, and of course I 
I said stay here. The children and I have come every day 
P- to work. We've got the plaster and bricks cleared out 
I from the comer of the fireplace, and I cook there, though 
flierc isn't any chimney of course, but I think the tiles of 
the kitchen floor are mostly all there still. And oh, 
Pierre, we have one corner of the garden almost cleared, 
ond the asparagus is coming up! Come and see! They 
cot down everything they could see, even the lilac bushes, 
j| but what was in the ground, alive, they couldn't kill." 
ci Nidart put the shovel in his wife's hand, and took up 



42 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

the pickax. " Time spent in traveling isn't counted on 
furloughs," he said, " so we have twenty-one days, count* 
ing to-day. The garden first, so*s to get in the seeds,'' 

They clambered over the infernal disorder of the L 
ruins of the house, and picked their way down and bade 
into what had been the garden. A few sections of tte 
wall were still standing, its thick solidity resisting evea 
dynamite petards. 

" Oh, see, almost all of the pleached trees are saved! " 
cried Nidart, astonished, "that part of the wall didn't 
fall." 

"I'm not sure I pruned those right," said his wife 
doubtfully, glancing at them. "I couldn't remember 
whether you left two or four buds on the peaches, and \^ 
I just gave up on the big grapevine. It grew so, it got 
all ahead of me ! " 

" Did they bear well? " asked the man, looking across ;I 
the trash heap at the well-remembered trees and vines, i 
" We'd better leave those till some odd time, they won't i 
need much care. I can do them between other things ^ 
some time when I'm too tired to do anything else. Here , 
is where the big job is." He looked the ground over 
with a calculating eye and announced his plan of cam- 
paign. 

" We won't try to carry the rubbish out. It's too 1 
heavy for you, and my time has got to go as far as it 1 
can for the important things. We'll just pile it all up ^ 
in a line along the line where the walls used to stand. -^ 
All of us know that line ! I'll use the pickax, and Maman 'J 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 43 

the shovel. Jean-Pierre will throw the bigger pieces over 
on the line, and Berthe will go after and pick up the 
littler ones/' 

They set to work, silently, intensely. When they 
reached the currant-bushes, all laid low, Pierre gave a 
growl of wrath and scorn, but none of them slack- 
ened their eflForts. About eleven the big convoy of 
camions on the way to the front came through, lurching 
along the improvised road laid out across the fields. The 
workers, lifting their eyes for the first time from their 
labors, saw at a distance on the main road the advance 
guard of the road-menders already there, elderly sol- 
diers, gray-haired territorials, with rakes and shovels, 
and back of them, shuttle-like, the big trucks with road- 
metal coming and going. 
Reluctantly leaving her work, Paulette went to get the 
! supplies for dinner, and started an open-air fire in the 
[ deared-out comer of the chimney. Over this she hung 
^ a trig pot, and leaving it to boil she hurried back to her 
f shovel. "The soup-kettle and the flat-irons," she told 
I her husband, " they were too hard to break and too heavy 
to carry away, and they are about all that's left of what 
^ was in the house.*' 

!" No, I found an iron fork," said Berthe, " but it was 
all twisted. Jean-Pierre said he thought he could ..." 
"Don't talk," said their father firmly,— "you don't 
' work so fast when you talk." 

•i At noon they went back to the fire burning under the 
• open sky, in the blackened corner of the fireplace where 



44 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

it had cooked the food during the years past. The man 
looked at it strangely, and turned his eyes away. 

" Now where is your fork, little Berthe ? " he said Js 
" I'll straighten it for you. With that and my kit . . .** 

" I have my jackknife too,*' said Jean-Pierre. 

They ate thus, dipping up the stew in the soldier's 
gamelle, using his knife and fork and spoon and the 
straightened iron fork. The baby was fed on bread 
soaked in the gravy, and on bits of potato given him from 
the end of a whittled stick. In the twenty minutes' rest js 
which their captain allowed the little force after the 
meal, he and Jean-Pierre whittled out two wooden forks, 
two-tined, from willow twigs. " That's one apiece now/' \^ 
said Nidart, "and the asparagus bed is all cleared off. 
We have made a beginning." 

They went back to work, stooping, straining, heaving, 
blinded with the flying plaster, wounded with the sharp 
edges of the shattered stones. The sun shone down on 
them with heavenly friendliness, the light, sparkling air | 
lifted the hair from their hot foreheads. After a time, | 
Nidart, stopping for an instant to wipe away the sweat 
which ran down into his eyes, said : " The air has a dif- 
ferent feel to it here. And the sun looks different. It 
looks like home." 

At four they stopped to munch the piece of bread 
which is the supplementary meal of French working- 
people at that hour. Nidart embellished it with a slice of 
cheese for each, which made the meal a feast. They 
talked as they ate; they began to try to bridge over the 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 45 

gap between them. But they lacked words to tell what 
lay back of them; only the dry facts came out. 

" Yes, I've been wounded, there's a place on my thigh, 
here, put your hand and feel, where there isn't any flesh 
over the bone, just skin. It doesn't bother me much, 
except when I try to climb a ladder. Something about 
that position I can't manage . . . and for a mason ..." 
" I'll climb the ladders," said Jean-Pierre. 
" Yes, I was pretty sick. It got gangrene some. They 
thought I wouldn't live. I was first in a big hospital 
near the front, and then in a convalescent hospital in 
Paris. It was awfully dull when I got better. They 
thought if I had made an application to be reforme and 
i retired I could be like Jacques Dupre with his wooden 
leg. But with you and the children here . . . what 
: could I have done with myself? So I didn't say any- 
thing, and when my time was up in the hospital I went 
\ back to the trenches. That was a year ago last winter." 
\ "Berthe and Jean-Pierre had the mumps that win- 
; ter," said their mother. " The baby didn't get it. I kept 
•: him away from them. The Boches shut us up as though 
we had the smallpox. They were terribly strict about 
--. any sickness. The Boche regimental doctor came every 
j day. He took very good care of them." 
! "He wanted to give me a doll because I didn't cry 
when he looked in my throat," said Berthe. 

"Of course she didn't take it," said Jean-Pierre. " I 
told her I'd break it all to pieces if she did." 
" But she cried afterwards." 



I 



46 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

" Come," said the father, " we've finished our bread 
6ack to work." 

That night, after the children were asleep on straw 
in the cellar down the road, their parents came back 
to wander about in the moonlight over their ravaged 
little kingdom. The wife said little, drawing her breadi 
irregularly, keeping a strained grasp on her husband's 
arm. For the most part he succeeded in speaking in a 
steady voice of material plans for the future, — how he 
could get some galvanized roofing out of the nearest 
trench abri; how he could use the trunks of the felled 
trees to strengthen his hastily constructed brick walls, 
and for roof -beams; what they could plant in the garden 
and the field — ^things which she and the children could 
cultivate after he had gone back. 

At this reminder of the inevitable farewell again be- 
fore them, the wife broke out in loud wailings, shivering, 
clutching at him wildly. He drew her down on a pile 
of rubbish, put his arms around her, and said in a per- 
emptory tone: "Paulette! Listen! You are letting the 
Boches beat you! " He used to her the tone he used for 
his squad, his new soldier's voice which the war had 
taught him, the tone which carried the laggards up oyer 
the top. At the steel-like ring of it his wife was 
silent. 

He went on : " There's nothing any of us can do but 
to go on. The only thing to do is to go on without mak- 
ing a fuss. That's the motto in the army, you know. 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 47 

i 
Don't make a fuss." He lifted his head and looked 

around at his home dismantled, annihilated. ''Not to 
\ give up, — ^that and the flatirons are about all the Boches 
[ have left us, don't you see ? " 

' He was silent a moment and went on with his con- 

[ structive planning. "Perhaps I can get enough lime 

sent on from Noyon to really rebuild the chimney. With 

■ that, and a roof, and the garden, and the allocation from 

the Government ..." 

" Yes, Pierre," said his wife in a trembling voice. She 
did not weep again. 
He himself, however, was not always at this pitch of 
t stoicism. There were times when he looked up sud- 
I denly and felt, as though for the first time, the downfall 
. and destruction of all that had been his life. At such 
! moments the wind of madness blew near him. The night 
;> after they had moved from the cellar into the half- 
roofed, half-walled hut, to sleep there on the makeshift 
beds, he lay all night awake, crushed with the immensity 
of the effort they would need to put forth and with the 
^ : in^gnificance of any progress made. There came before 
^ him the long catalogue of what they had lost, the little 
decencies and comforts they had earned and paid for and 
owned. He sickened at the squalid expedients of their 
present life. They were Hving like savages; never again 
would they attain the self-respecting order which had 
utj been ravished from them, which the ravishers still en- 
k-l joyed. With all his conscious self he longed to give up 
^•l the struggle, but something more than his conscious self 



. \ 



48 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



was at work. The tree had been cut down, but soma 
thing was in tlie ground, alive. ■ 

At dawn he found himself getting out of bed, purposi? 
fully. To his wife*s question he answered: '' I'm going 
to Noyon to buy the seed for the field. We haven't half 
enough corn. And I can get young cabbage pland 
there, too, they say. I can make it in six houA 
if I hurry/' ■ 

He was back by ten o*clockj exhausted, but arousea 
from his waking nightmare — for that time ! But it canfl 
again and again. ■ 

On the day he began to spade up the field he nottcel 
that two of his murdered fruit-trees, attached by a raa 
of bark to the stumps, were breaking out into leaf. ThM 
sight turned him sick with sorrow, as though one of hfl 
children had smiled at him frQjn her deathbed. He beill 
over the tree, his eyes burning, and saw that all the buds 
were opening trustfully. His heart was suffocating, Hm 
said to himself: "They have been killed! They an 
dead! But they do not know they are dead, and thew 
try to go on livmg. Are we like that?" m 

In an instant all his efforts to reanimate his assassfl 
nated Hfe seemed pitiful, childish, doomed to failure 
He looked across the field at the shapeless, roughly laifl 
brick wall he had begun, and felt a shamed rage. l4 
was half-minded to rush and kick it down. I 

*^ Papa, come ! The peonies have begun to come up fl 
the night. The whole row of them, where we were ra]l 
ing yesterday," fl 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 49 

The man found his wife already there, bending over 
the sturdy, reddish, rounded sprouts pushing strongly 
through the loosened earth. She looked up at him with 
shining eyes. When they were betrothed lovers, they 
had together planted those peonies, pieces of old roots 
from her mother's garden. *' You see," she said again; 
" I told you what was in the ground alive they couldn't 
kiU!" 

The man went back to his spading silently, and, as he 
labored there, a breath of sovereign healing came up to 
him from that soil which was his. The burning in his 
eyes, the taste of gall in his mouth, he had forgotten 
when, two hours later, he called across to his wife 
that the ground for the beans was all spaded and that 
she and Jean-Pierre could come now with their rakes, 
while he went back to building the house-wall. 

But that quick scorching passage through fire was 
nothing compared with the hour which waited for him 
in his garden beside ^the wall on which the branches of 
his pleached trees and vines still spread out their care- 
fully symmetrical patterns. He had put off caring for 
them till some odd moment. He and his wife, glancing 
at them from time to time, had made estimates of the 
amount of fruit they would yield, " and for us this time 
—•we haven't had a single peach or apple from them. 
The Boche officers sent their soldiers to get them al- 
ways." 

^*: "Queer they should have left those unharmed," said 
' his wife once, and he had answered: " PeiVv^^^s ^'t Twasv 

/ 
/ 



n 



so 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



they sent to kill them was a gardener like us. I kno 
couldn't cut down a fruit-tree in full bearing, not i 
were in hell and belonged to the Kaiser. Anybody W, 
ever grown things knows what it is ! '* 

One gray day of spring rains and pearly mists, the 
would not burn in the only half-constructed chimi 
Paulette crouched beside it, blowing with all her mi; 
and thinking of the big leathern bellows which had la 
carried away to Germany with all the rest. Jean-Pi< 
shaved off bits from a dry stick and Berthe fed tl 
under the pot, but the flame would not brighten. Pi. 
coming down, cold and hungry, from the top of 
wall where he had been struggling with a section of 
felt physically incapable of going on with that work 
he had eaten, and decided to use the spare half' 
for pruning the pleached trees and vines. Almost! 
the end of his strength after the long-continued sttai| 
effort to accomplish the utmost in every moment 
every hour, he shivered from the cold of his wet 
ments as he stood for a moment, fumbling to reach 
pruning-shears. But he did not give himsetf the 
to warm his hands at the fire, setting out directly a. 
into the rain. He had been working at top speed ej 
since the breakfast, six hours before, of black ca 
and dry bread. 

Sodden with fatigue and a little light-headed from 1 
of food, he walked along the wall and picked out 
grapevine as the least tiring to begin on. He knew if 



I ^ THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 51 

fc 

I well he could have pruned it in the dark. He had planted 

I it the year before his marriage, when he had been build- 
ing the house and beginning the garden. It had not been 
an especially fine specimen, but something about the sit- 
! nation and the soil had exactly suited it, and it had 

: thriven miraculously. Every spring, with the first ap- 

^ I»t)ach of warm weather, he had walked out, in the eve- 

rf ning after his day's work, along the wall to catch the 

■I first red bud springing amazingly to Uf e out of the Iwown, 
woody stems which looked so dead. During the sum- 
jners as he had sprayed the leaves, and manured the soil 

-; and watered the roots and lifted with an appraising hand 
tile great purple clusters, heavier day by day, he had 
come to know every turn of every branch. In the 
trenches, during the long periods of silent inaction, when, 
.ttie men stare before them at sights from their past lives,' 
'sometimes Nidart had looked back at his wife and chil- 
dren, sometimes at his garden on an early morning in 
June, sometimes at his family about the dinner-table in 
the evening, and sometimes at his great grapevine, break- 
ing into bud in the spring, or, all luxuriant curving lines, 
rich with leafage, green and purple in the splendor of its 

i( September maturity. 

It was another home-coming to approach it now, and 

cj his sunken, bloodshot eyes found rest and comfort in 
dwelling on its well-remembered articulations. He no- 

^ tfced that the days of sunshine, and now the soft spring 
rain, had started it into budding. He laid his hand ofti 

^ the tough, knotted, fibrous brown stem. 



) 



52 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

It stirred oddly, with a disquieting lightness in 
hand. The sensation was almost as though one of 
own bones turned gratingly on nothing. The sw 
broke out on his forehead. He knelt down and t< 
hold of the stem lower down. The weight of his hi 
displaced it. It swung free. It had been severed f r 
the root by a fine saw. The sap was oozing from 
stump. 

The man knelt there in the rain, staring at this, 
though he were paralyzed. He did not know what 
was looking at, for a moment, conscious of nothing 
a cold sickness. He got up heavily to his feet, th 
and made his way to the next vine. Its stem gaye v 
also, swinging loose with the horrible limpness of 
broken limb. 

He went to the next, a peach-tree, and to the next 
fine pleached pear. Everything, everything, peach-trc 
apple-trees, grapevines, ever3^hing had been neatly a 
dextrously murdered, and their corpses left hanging 
the wall as a practical joke. 

The man who had been sent to do that had beer 
gardener indeed, and had known where to strike to res 
the very heart of this other gardener who now, his hai 
over his face, staggered forward and leaned his be 
against the wall, against the dead vine which had b< 
so harmless, so alive. He felt something like an inwj 
bleeding, as though that neat, fine saw had severed 
artery in his own body. 

His wife stepped out in the rain and called him. 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 53 

Heard nothing but the fine, thin voice of a small saw, 
eating its way to the heart of living wood. 

His wife seeing him stand so still, his face against the 
wall, came out towards him with an anxious face. 
"Pierre, Pierre! " she said. She looked down, saw the 
severed vine-stem and gave a cry of dismay. " Pierre, 
f they haven't . . . they haven't . . . ! " 

She ran along the wall, touching them one by one, all 
the well-known, carefully tended stems. Her anger, her 
- sorrow, her disgust burst from her in a flood of out- 
cries, of storming, furious words. 

Her husband did not move. A deathlike cold crept 
over him. He heard nothing but the venomous, fine voice 
^ of the saw, cutting one by one the tissues which had taken 
so long to grow, which had needed so much sun and rain 
and heat and cold, and twelve years out of a man's life. 
He was sick, sick of it all, mourning not for the lost 
trees but for his lost idea of life. That was what people 
were like, could be like, what one man could do in cold 
blood to another — ^no heat of battle here, no delirium 
of excitement, cold, calculated intention ! He would give 
tip the effort to resist, to go on. The killing had been 
loo thoroughly done. 

His wife fell silent, frightened by his stillness. She 
forgot her own anger, her grief, she forgot the dead 
< trees. They were as nothing. A strong, valiant tender- 
'' ness came into her haggard face. She went up to him, 
i dose, stepping into his silent misery with the secure con- 
'1 fidence only a wife can have in a husband. "Cotcsfc, 

1 " 



S4 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



Pierre/' she said gently, putting her red, worlc-scarred 
hand in his. She drew him away from the wall^ his 
arms hanging listlessly. She drew him into the shel- 
tered comer of the room he had half finished. She 
hot food before him and made him eat and drink. 

The rain poured down in a gray wall dose bef< 
them. The heaped-up ruins were all around them, 
side the shelter the children ate greedily, heartily, 
ing, laughing, quarreling, playing. The fire, now th< 
oughly ablaze, flamed brightly beside them. The kel 
steamed. 

After a time Nidart's body began slowly to wai 
He began to hear the children's voices, to see his wi 
dimly. The horror was an hour behind him. 
blessed, blurring passage of the moments clouded thi 
between him and the sound of that neat small saw, 
sight of that deft^handed man, coolly and smilingly mi 
dering , , . 

He looked at his wife attentively, as she tried to 
in order their little corner saved from chaos. She 
putting back on the two shelves he had made her 
w^ooden forks and spoons which she had cleaned tOi 
scrupulous whiteness; she was arranging neatly 
wretched outfit of tin cans, receptacles, and formless 
paper packages which replaced the shining completeni 
of her lost kitchen ; she was smoothing out the blanb 
on their rough camp-beds; she was washing the fa< 
and hands of the children, of their own children and 
little foster-son, the child of the woman who had 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 55 

up, who had let herself be beaten, who had let herself be 
killed, who had abandoned her baby to be cared for by 
another, braver woman. 

A shamed courage began slowly to filter back into his 
drained and emptied heart. With an immense effort he 
got up from the tree-stump which served for chair and 
went towards his wife, who was kneeling before the little 
diild she had saved. He would begin again. 

" Paulette," he said heavily, *' I believe that if we could 
get some grafting wax at once, we might save those. 
Why couldn't we cover the stumps with wax to keep the 
nwts from bleeding to death, till the tops make real buds^ 
and then graft them on to the stumps? It's too late to 
do it properly with dormant scions, but perhaps we might 
ncceed. It would be quicker than starting all over again. 
■ The roots are there, still." 

He raged as he thought of this poor substitute for his 
splendid trees, but he set his teeth. *' I could go to 
Noyon* They must have wax and resin there in the 
jhops by this time, enough for those few stumps." 

The little boy presented himself imploringly. " Oh, 
let me go ! I could do it, all right. And you could get 
on faster with the roof. There aren't but ten days left, 
now." 

He set off in the rain, a small brave spot of energy in 
the midst of death. His father went back to his house- 
building. 

The roads were mended now, the convoys of camions 
tumbled along day after day, raising clouds of dust; 



56 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



staff-cars flashed by; once in a while a non-milit 
automobile came through, sometimes with officials of 
Government on inspection tours, who distributed misc 
laneous lots of seeds, and once brought Paulette ^ 
lengths of cotton stuff for sheets; sometimes witlq 
porters from the Paris newspapers; once with sd 
American reporters who took photographs, and ga 
some bars of chocolate to the children. Several tin 
people stopped, foreigners, Americans, English, son 
times women in uniforms, who a^ed a great many qu 
tions and noted down the answers. Pierre wondered 4 
those able-bodied young men were not in some arr 
He had thought all the able-bodied men in the Wi 
were in some army. 

For the most part he found all these people 
futile and uninteresting, as he had always found 
people, and paid little attention to them, never interi 
ing his work to talk to them, his work, his sacred 
for which there remained, only too well known, a 
and smaller number of hours. He took to laborioj 
night whenever possible. 



The roof was all on the one tiny room before the 
for his return. The chimney was rebuilt, the gaJ 
spaded, raked, and planted. But the field was not 
ished. It takes a long time to spade up a whole 
Pierre worked on it late at night, the moonlight pet 
ting. When his wife came out to protest, he told 
that it was no harder than to march all night, 




THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 



S7 






knapsack and blanket-roll and gun. She took up the 
flake and began to work beside him. Under their tan 
they were both very white and drawn, during these last 
days. 
The day before the last came, and they worked all day 
the field, never lifting their eyes from the soil. But 
:ir task was not finished when night came* Pierre 
iad never been so exacting about the condition of the 
ground. It must be fine, fine, without a single clod left 
to impede the growth of a single precious seed. This 
was not work which, like spading, could be done at night 
in an uncertain light. When their eyes, straining through 
the thickening twilight, could no longer distinguish the 
lumps of earth, he gave it up, with a long breath, and, 
his rake on his shoulder, little Berthe's hand in his, he 
crossed the mended road to the uncomely little shelter 



,^ which was home. 

flL Paulette was bending over the fire. 



She looked up, 

d he saw that she had been crying. But she said 

iPr nothing. Nor did he, going to lean his rake against the 

I reconstructed wall. He relinquished the implement re- 

J luctantly, and all through the meal kept the feel of it 

in his hand. 

They were awake when the first glimmer of gray dawn 

ne through the empty square which was their win- 

ow. Pierre dressed hurriedly and taking his rake went 

across the road to the field. Paulette blew alive the coals 

yf last night's fire, and made coffee and carried it across 

her husband with a lump of bread- He stopped work 



5S HOME FISES IN FRANCE 

to drink and cat It was in the hoar bef ote the snnrist! 
A gray, thin mist dang to the cartb. Throng it tfaq 
' locked at each other's pale faccs^ soberly. 

** Yon must get the seed in as soon as yoo can, aftef 
Vm gone/' said the faasfaand. 

** Yes/' she promised, ** we won't lose a minnte." 

^'And I think yon and Jean-Pierre can manage IQ 
nail in the window-frame when it comes. I tlioc^fat Fd 
be able to do that myself." 

** Yes, Jean-Pierre and I can do it" 

*' You'd better get my kit and everything ready foi 
me to leave/' he said, drinking the last of the coflFec 
and setting his hand again to the rake. 

They had reckoned that he would need to leave till 
house at ten o'clock if he were to make the long tranq 
to Noyon in time for the train. At a quarter of ten hi 
stopped, and, the rake still tightly held in his han4 
crossed the road. His knapsack, blanket-roll, all the va* 
rious brown bags and musettes were waiting for hia 
on the bench hewn from a tree-trunk before the door 
He passed them, went around the little hut, and steppd 
into the garden. 

Between the heaped-up lines of rubble, the bi{ 
rectangle of well-tilled earth lay clean and brown anc 
level. And on it, up and down, were four, long, straigfai 
lines of pale green. The peas were up. He was to sei 
that before he went back. 

He stooped over them. Some of them were stil 
bowed double with the effort of thrusting themselves u] 



THE PERMISSIONNAIRE 59 

against the encumbering earth. He felt their effort in 
the muscles of his own back. But others, only a few 
hours older, were already straightening themselves 
Withely to reach up to the sun and warmth. This also 
he felt — in his heart. Under the intent gaze of the gar- 
dener, the vigorous little plants seemed to be vibrating 
with life. His eyes were filled with it. He turned away 
and went back to the open door of the hut His wife, 
very pale, stood there, silent. He heaved up his knap- 
sack, adjusted his blanket-roll and miLsettes, and drew a 
long breath. 

"Good-bye, Paulette," he said, kissing her on both 
cheeks, the dreadful long kiss which may be the last. 

"I will — I will take care of things here," she said, 
her voice dying away in her throat. 

He kissed his children, he stooped low to kiss the little 
foster-child. He looked once more across at the field, 
not yet seeded. Then he started back to the trenches. 

He had gone but a few steps when he stopped short 
and came back hurriedly. The rake was still in his handJ 
He had forgotten his gun. 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE 
REAR 



I WAS tucking the children into bed after their bath, my 
rosy, romping, noisy children, when *'le soldat Des- 
champs " was announced. Deschamps is the man from 
the north of France, who had been a coal-miner before 
the war, the man whose wife and little boy are still " up 
there," the man who has not seen his family since he 
kissed them the fourth of August three years ago. 

A veil seemed to drop between me and the faces of ] 
my rosy, romping, noisy children. ... 

I went slowly along the hall to our living-room. Y« 
there he was, poor Deschamps, the big, powerfully built, 
fellow, a little thinner, a little more gaunt, a little ; i 
whiter than when I had seen him last, although that wa§ 
only a week ago. He rose up, very tall in his worn grajf^ : 
blue uniform, not so neatly brushed as it had been, and 
put out a flaccid hand. " Bonsoir, madame . . . excuse 
me for coming again so soon. I know I ought not to 
take your time. But when we are allowed to go out 
. . . where shall I go? I know so few people in 
Paris "... as though one would not be willing to give 
time when there is so tragically nothing else to give him! 

60 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 6i 

I say something cordial, take up my sewing, and set- 
ble myself for what I know is coming. Poor Deschamps ! 
He needs only a word or two of sympathy when out he 
pours it all in a rush, the heartsick desolation of the up* 
rooted exile, the disintegrating misery of the home-loving 
man without a home. Of late, alas ! it does not come out 
very coherently. " You see, madame, we were so well 
oflF there. What could a man ask for more? My day 
in the mine began at four in the morning, but I was free 
It two in the afternoon, and I am very strong, as you 
see, so that I could go on working out of doors as long 
ais the daylight lasted. We had our own house paid for, 
our own ! And a big, big garden. I earned ten francs j^ 
3ay cash in the mines, and we almost lived out of our 
garden, so we were saving all the time. Our boy was 
to have a good schooling. Perhaps, we thought, he 
[night be like Pasteur. You know his father was a 
simple tanner. My wife never had to work for others, 
never! She could stay there and Jiave everything clean 
and pleasant and take care of the boy. We were so 
happy and always well. . . . We both worked in the 
garden, and people who garden are never sick. And al- 
ways contented. And our garden . . . you ought to 
sec it • - .all the potatoes we could eat I raised there, 
and early ones too! And all the cabbages and some to 
sell. The coal company sold us cheap all the manure we 
nranted from their stables, and I could make the land as 
rich, as rich! Such early vegetables! Better than any 
you can buy in the towns. And the winter ones . • • 



62 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



,1 



you should see how we protect our cabbages in the 
ter. , , ." 

The monologue has carried the big fellow out of 
I chair now. He is grasping an imaginary spade, a h 
rof imaginary cabbages by his side. '' So . - , 
sprinkle sand first, and then cabbages all laid so . 
you understand. . , •*' The voice goes on and on, \ 
most the voice of a person hypnotised. 

I lose my perception of what he is saying as I g; 
at his sunken eyes fixed on homely^ much*loved sea 
I cannot see. 

" The best place for the carrots was the sloping bit 
ground near the big oak. . . /' He sees it, his big oi 
there before him. He makes me see it, and what 
meant to him* This was the man whom the twenB 
century forced to march away, to kill, and be killed, 

"... And little Raoul used to help; yes, with his lil 
hands he would pat down the sand and laugh to see 
finger-marks/' 

The voice stops abruptly. In the resultant sileno 
move uneasily . . < I find Deschamps' talk heartbreakil 
enough, but his silences terrify me, I try to arouse 1^ 
from his bleak brooding reverie. * . . 

" You had hares too, didn't you, and hens, and 
pig , . . ? That must have helped out with the Hvinj 

He comes to himself with a start. *' Oh, it was 
wife who kept the animals. She has such a hand 
making tlicm thrive* They were like her other child; 
Those little chicks, they never died, always pro: 



ospg 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 63 

grew so fat. We always had one or two to sell when she 
went to town to market. Angele used to dress them her- 
self, so that we could have the feathers. Then she put 
them in one of the neat baskets she made from the willow 
sprouts on the side of our little stream, with a clean 
white cloth over them, as clean as her neckerchief. 
Angele is as neat as a nun, always. Our house shone 
with cleanness ..." He breaks off' abruptly. " I have 
shown you the photograph of Angele and Raoul, haven't 
I, madame ? " 

I hold out my hand and gaze again, as I have so many 
times before, into the quiet eyes of the young peasant 
woman with the sturdy little boy at her side. " She is 
very pretty, your wife," I say, "and your little boy 
looks so strong and vigorous." 

"I hear," he said with a great heave of his broad 
chesty now so sunken, "that the Boches have taken all 
the livestock away from the owners, all the hens and pigs 
and hares, and sent them to Germany. Perhaps Raoul 
and Angele have not enough to eat . . . perhaps there is 
even no house there now . . • a cousin of mine saw a 
refugee from his own region • . • who had seen the 
place where his house had been ! ... it had been shelled, 
there was ..." His mouth sets hard in an angry line 
of horror. 

I bestir myself. This is the sort of talk Deschamps 
must not be allowed. 

" M. Deschamps," I say, " I shall be writing soon to 
that group of American friends who gave tVve motv^^ iot 



64 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



your articulated arm. Have you any message to sem 
them? I think they are planning to send some raor 
money to help you, . . • " 

He waves it away with a great gesture. " Monc 
can't do anything for me," he says bitterly* adding^ 
quickly : " Not of course that I am not very, very grat 
ful for the so-costly artificial arm. It means I can earn 
their living again, if ever Angele . . •" 

I break in once more : " But I promised them a state- 
ment of all your case, you know, the dates and 
places and everything. Could you just run over them 
again , , . ? " 

But I do not listen as he goes wearily over the oW 
story as familiar to me now as to him: mobilized thel 
first day, was in the Battle of the Marne, advanced to 
B , was wounded there in the leg, taken to a hos- 
pital in an American ambulance, cured, returned to the 
trenches; wounded in the shoulder, taken to the hospital, 
cured, returned to the trenches ... all this time with 
no news whatever from his family, knowing that his 
region was occupied by the invaders, hearing stories of 
how the women and children were treated. . , , Fought 
during the winter of 1914-15, wounded in three places in 
June, 1915, taken to the hospital where his arm was am- 
putated. While there, heard indirectly that his wife and 
child were still alive. As soon as the articulated arm 
(paid for out of my blessed fund of American money) 
allowed him to work, he had begun to learn the tinner's 
trade, since a one-armed man could no longer be a miner. 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 65 

Now he had passed his apprenticeship and could soon be 
ready to earn his living. 

I knew all this laborious, heroic, commonplace story 
already, and looked through it at the hospital pallor on 
the haggard face, at the dreadful soft whiteness of the 
hands so obviously meant to be hard and brown, at the 
slack looseness of the great frame, at a man on the point 
of losing his desire to live. • . . 

" What use is it to earn money when not a cent can 
I send to them up there, when I can hear nothing from 
Angela beyond that line on a post-card once in three 
months? Madame, you have education, why will they 
not allow a wife to write to her husband? " 

I have only the old answer to the old question : " We 
suppose they are afraid of spies, of people sending in- 
formation to France." 

"But why do they keep Angele there? Why don't 
they let women go to their husbands ? What harm can 
that do? Why do they make it a hell on earth for them 
and then refuse to let them go? " 

I had for this only the usual murmur : " A few are 
allowed to come away." 

He struck his hands together. " So few ! When they 
last said they would allow some women and children to 
come to France, only a fifteenth part of those who asked 
for leave were allowed to come. Why? Why? What 
has Angele to do with the war ? " 

He gets up for the restless pacing about our little 
living-room which always ends his visits. " I think I 



66 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



shall go madj madame. I am there in the hospital, t 
hundred of us in one great room , , . oh, they i 
kind enough to us, we have enough to eat. But we i 
not children. It is not enough to have food and a fO( 
Two hundred men there , , , what a life , , * 1 
fourteen months ! Nothing to work for, nothing to li 
for, no home, no family, not even a chance to go back 
the trenches. The other men drink as much as they c 
get money for, I never drank in my life. Madame, ^ 
you suppose it would make me sleep to drink ? " i 

" See here, M. Deschamps," I say, moving to my del 
" I will write again to the Spanish Embassy, I will I 
them again about Angele and Raoul, they will send 1 
request to the German authorities in your town 
perhaps this time . . ." It is a perilous stimulant 
administer to a sick heart, but what other have I? S 
sit, swallowing the limip in my throat, and once m 
make out the application which never has any result 

*' There," I say, putting it into an envelope with hai 
that are not very steady — '* there, my friend, you n 
that. And now you must go, or the night-nurse 1 
scold you for being late.'' 

He reaches for his cap, his old shabby cap with 
bullet hole through it, and stands fumbling with it. 
head hanging, He towers above me, gaunt, powerl 
as pitiably defenseless as any little child, I wink back ( 
tears which threaten to come, shake his hand hard, 
tell him to be sure to come again the next time he I 
the " cafard/^ He nods absently and shuffles to the d 



ledq I 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 67 

" You will pardon me, madame . . . but when I think 
that my little Raoul has perhaps not enough to eat, and 
I am not ..." 

He has gone his lonely way to the hospital bed which 
is all he has for home. I go back to the cool dark bed- 
room and look down at my sleeping children. 

There is no reason for it . . . why should I feel 
guilty to see them rosy and safe? 

n 

When I come in from the street, very tired, after a 
talk with a war-widow about ways and means for taking 
care of her children, I find him in the living-room, the 
(hearty, broad-faced fellow, smiling, giving me his great, 
J^arm-laborer's hand, thanking me for the last package 
jof goodies ... as though he had not just come 

through the inferno of the attack at M . " The 

package never arrived at a better moment," he said gaily. 
*'We had been on awfully short rations for three days 
. ... in a shell-hole, you know." I know that I do not 
know it all, but it is futile to try to draw fine distinctions 
with Groissard, cheeriest and simplest of "permission- 
aaires," always the same, always open-faced and clear- 
eyed, always emanating quiet confidence and always see- 
ing it about him. If there are any tired or disheartened 
or apprehensive or perplexed soldiers in the army, they 
jass unperceived of Groissard's honest eyes. His com- 
panions are all . . . to hear him talk ... as brave, 
as untroubled, as single-hearted as he. They never comr 



m 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



plain — that is, if Groissard's account of them is accuri 
they think as little as possible about anything but ft 
and packages from the rear and jokes. And when fi 
do think, it is always only to be sure that everybody ti 
hold hard and stick it out quite to the end. As long 
"they" are on French soil, of course there is noth 
else for an honest Frenchman to do. And they are 
honest Frenchmen around Groissard. 

" Oh yeSp madame/' he says simply, balancing my li 
boy on his knee, "the spirit of the army is excellii 
Why shouldn't it be? WeVe going to get them, ; 
know. And you ought to see our regimental fire 
cookers now. They're great! The cooks fill them 
at the kitchen at the rear, quite out of range, you kii 
where there's no danger of a shell upsetting the p 
and then the men bring the big fireless cookers up 
mitrailleuse carriages that can go anywhere. They w< 
their way clear up to us in the first-line trenches, and 
ragout is piping hot. It's like sitting down to the t 
at the farm at home. There's nothing so good for 
spirit of an army as hot rasta. And your packages, 
packages madame sends with the money from her Aji 
ican friends * . . why, the days when they come 
like being a kid again, and having a birthday! i 
then we get two days out of five for rest at the reatj ; 
know, except when there is a very big attack going 
We're not so badly off at all ! " J 

** During those big attacks aren't you sometimes] 
off from food supplies ? " I ask. I 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 69 

" Oh, not so often. The longest one was three days 
and four nights, and we had our emergency rations for 
half that time.'' He tosses my fat little son up in the 
air and catches him deftly in his great farm laborer's 
hands, butcher's hands. The children adore Groissard, 
and his furloughs are festivals for them. As for me, I 
have an endless curiosity about him. I can never be done 
with questioning him, with trying to find out what is 
underneath his good-natured acceptance of the present 
insane scheme of the universe; I sometimes descend to 
banalities, the foolish questions schoolgirls ask. I lower 
my voice : " Groissard, did you ever — ^have you ever had 
to ... I don't mean firing off your rifle at a distant 
crowd, I mean in close quarters • . . ? " 

" Have I killed many Boches, you mean, madame ? " 
he breaks through my mincing, twentieth-century false- 
modesty about naming a fact I accept . . . since I 
accept Groissard ! " Oh yes, a good many. We fought 
all over Mort-Homme, you know; and we were in the 
last attack on Hill 304. There was a good deal of hand- 
to-hand work there, of course." He turns the delighted 
baby upside down and right-side up, and smiles sunnily 
at the resultant shrieks of mirth. 

I try again : " Do you see many prisoners, Groissard ? '* 
He is always ready to answer questions, although he 
cannot understand my interest in such commonplace de- 
tails. 

"Yes indeed, madame, ever so many. Just the day 
before this ' permission ' began, day before yesterday it 



70 



HO^IE FIRES IN FRANCE 



' was, we brought in a sqtiad of twenty from a 
section of trench we had taken, I'm not likely to fc 
them for one while! Our cook, who is from the So<J 
and loses his head easily, went and cooked up for tl 
at three o'clock in the afternoon every last beefsteak 
were going to have for dinner that night. We di 
have a thing but beans left ! But we didn't grumble ve 
much, either. They were the coldest, hungriest-lookinj 
lot you ever saw. It did your heart good to see the 
they got around those beefsteaks ! " 

I gaze at him baffled, ^' But, Groissard, you kill di^ 
You are there to kill them ! What can you care whetl 
they have beefsteaks or not/' 

He stops playing with the baby to look at me, 
eyed with astonishment, " Vm not there to kill 
oners t*^ he says^ with an imanswerable simplicity, 
I lose myself again in a maze of conjecture and sf 
latlon. 



HI 

*' Oh, it's got to stop, that's all ; it's too sickening, 
imbecile, too monstrous! " 

It is the brancardier talking, the one who had 
prosperous sugar-broker before the war, and who 
been a first-line stretcher-carrier since the beginnini 
the wan If you think you have any idea what it 
meant to be first-line stretcher-carrier for three yea 
you have only to hear Paul Arbagnan talk for five mi 
utes to guess at the extent of your ignorance. Hi 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 71 

just back from the front, on a twenty- four hours' fur- 
lough, granted after a terrible fortnight under incessant 
fire. He sits in the midst of our family group, beside 
his older brother, the despatch-carrier, also here ''en 
permission/^ The brother was before the war a pro- 
fessor of political economy. From the worn blue 
uniforms of both brothers swings the croix de guerre 
gloriously. The younger one's face is thin and very 
brown, his blue eyes look out at us with an irritable 
flicker. The mud dried on his clumsy boots crumbles 
oflf in great flakes on my polished floor. His hard, grimy 
hand with broken nails (which had been so fine and 
well-kept before the war) teases and pulls at his close- 
dipped hair, now as grizzled with silver as that of a man 
twenty years his senior. 

A harmless elderly relative murmurs something senti- 
mental about the mud on the floor being sacred earth, like 
that the Crusaders brought back from Jerusalem, and the 
inevitable explosion takes place. " Oh, you people at the 
rear, your silly chatter about heroism and holy causes! 
You don't know what you are talking about. There 
ought to be a law to make all the civilian population keep 
silence about the war. You have no idea, not the faintest 
glimmering of a notion of what life is at the front! If 
you had . . . ! My croix de guerre! Don't you sup- 
pose I would give it back ten times over if I could forget 
what I feel deliberately to leave a mortally wounded man 
to die because I have orders to select (if my stretcher 
has not room enough for all) only those who toa:^ ?,^\. 



?3 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



well enough to go back and fight again. Without 1 
known what it is, you've no right to say a word, to 
an opinion or a thought about it, you safe, clean, 
gossiping people at the rear! The dirt • * . ! 
the bath I had this morning here in Paris was the 
time I have taken my clothes off^ except to hunt 
vermin, for twenty-two days. Do you know what 
body is like, what your clothes are like, what your so 
are like, when you have lived and cooked and sw^eat 
slept and bled in them for twenty-two days? Of coH 
you don't. No civilized being does. And until you j 
less talk from you about the heroism of the soldi! 
Filth, that's what war is, and dirty diseases lying 
wait for decent men. And cold, cold day and night, 
that brutalizes, that degenerates you till you would j 
your soul, your mother's soul to be warm again. 
mud, not clean country mud, but filth, and up to your \ 
and beyond, horrible infected mud splashing upon 
emergency bandage you are trying to put on a wc 
And the wounded . . * see here, when the newspape: 
speak complacently of the superb artillery preparatic 
which after three days of cannon-duel silences tl 
enemy's batterieSt do you know what that means to mi 
It means I am squatting all day in an undergrotl 
shelter, with twenty wounded, the German shells fallif 
one a minute over my head, my supplies of bandag 
gone, my anaesthetics gone, no cotton, not even a cup - 
water left To see them die there, begging for 
calling for their mothers . • . to crouch there help! 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 73 

all day long, hearing the shells falling, and wondering 
which one will come through the roof — oh, you have 
plenty of time to think the whole proposition over, the 
business you're in. You have time, let me tell you, to 
have your own opinion of the imbecility of setting one 
highly civilized man down in filth and degradation to 
shoot at others. When some idiot of a journalist, re- 
porting the war, speaks of the warlike ardor of the men, 
how it is difficult to restrain them until the order to 
charge is given . . . when we read such paragraphs in 
the papers ... if you could hear the snarl that goes 
up ! We ' charge ' when the word of command is given, 
yes, because we know nothing better to do, but ..." 

The sentimental aunt breaks in resolutely : " Of course, 
it's very noble of you, Paul ; the fact is simply that you 
don't or won't recognize your own courage." 

" Courage, nonsense ! A rat in a hole, surrounded by 
other rats putrefying . . . that's what I am in my 
underground shelter! What else can I do? What else 
can we any of us do? We can't get away! There 
Wouldn't be anywhere to go if we did! But when I 
ihink of the people at the rear, how they don't know, 
will never know, the sickening hours the troops live 
through. See here! No sensitive, civilized being can 
forget it if he has only once been wholly filthy, wholly 
bestial .. . . and we have been that, time without num- 
ber. When I come back to Paris on furlough and look 
at the crowds in the Paris streets, the old men with white 
collars, and clean skins, the women with cuT\tdVvi\t ^\A 



74 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

silk stockings, I could kill them, when I think that they 
will have a voice in the future, will affect what will be 
done hereafter about war . • ." 

" Time for your train, Paul," warns the elder brother 
soberly. 

The man who had been reviling the life of a soldier 
springs instantly to his feet and looks anxiously at his 
watch. He claps on his blue steel casque. 

We try to give a light touch to the last of his stay. 
" How medieval those helmets make you look ! " 

He is not to be distracted. "Put it further back, 
stone-age, cannibalistic," he cries bitterly, marching out 
hurriedly so that he may be promptly at his task. 

The elder brother comes back from the door, a dim, 
patient smile on his lips. "Oh, Paul, poor boy! He 
takes it hard ! He takes it hard ! " he murmurs. " Who 
would think to hear him that he is accounted the best 
brancardier in his section? He is the one always sent 
out to do the impossible, and he always goes, silently, 
and does it. After this last engagement, he had shown 
such bravoure, they wanted to have him cited again, to 
give him the palms to wear above his croix. But he said 
he had had his share, that others had done as much as 
he, and he persuaded them to give the croix to one of 
the other brancardiers, a stevedore from Marseilles who 
can't read or write. You are perhaps not surprised to 
know that he is adored by his comrades." 

" But is it true ... all he says? " I ask, shivering 
a little. 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 75 

" Oh yes, true enough, and more than he says or any 
one can ever say. But, but ..." He searches for 
a metaphor and finds it with a smile. " See, Paul is like 
a man with a fearful toothache ! He can't think of any- 
thing else. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything 
else." 

I ask him : " But you, who have been through all that 
Paul sees, what do you find, besides ? " He hesitates, 
smiling no longer, and finally brings out in a low tone : 
"When a mother gives birth to a child, she suffers, 
suffers horribly. Perhaps all the world is now trying to 
give birth to a new idea, which we have talked of, but 
never felt before; the idea that all of us, each of us, is 
responsible for what happens to all, to each, that we must 
stick together for good ..." He picks up his steel 
helmet, and looks at us with his dim, patient, indomitable 
smile. " It is like a little new baby in more ways than 
one, that new idea. It has cost us such agony; and it 
is so small, so weak, so needing all our protection . . . 
and then also, because ..." his sunken eyes are pro- 
phetic, " because it is alive, because it will grow ! " 

IV 

I glance at my calendar iit dismay. Is it possible that 
three months have gone, and that it is time for Amieux 
to have another " permission "? How long the week of 
his furlough always seems, how the three months between 
race away! Of course we have the greatest regard for 
^^mieux. We feel that his uniform a\ou^ ^^ \si ^ 



76 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

chasseur alpin who has been a first-line fighter since the 
Battle of the Mame) would entitle him to our services, 
but more than that, his personality commands our respect, 
sound, steady, quiet Amieux whose sturdy body is 
wounded in one place after another, who is repaired 
hastily in the nearest hospital and uncomplainingly goes 
back to the trenches, his sleeve decorated with another 
one of the V-shaped marks which denote wounds. The 
only trouble with Amieux as a household hero is a total 
dearth of subjects of conversation. You see, he is a 
glass-blower by profession. We often feel that if we 
were not as ignorant of glass-blowing as Amieux is of 
everything else, we could get on famously with him. As 
it is . . . 

'' Oh bon jour, M. Amieux," I say, jumping to my feet, 
" welcome back to the rear ! All well ? " 

"Yes, madame," he says with as ponderous an em- 
phasis on the full-stop as that of any taciturn New Eng- 
land farmer. 

"Well, has it been hard, the last three months?" I 
ask. 

" No, madame." 

I draw a long breath. 

" Do the packages we send, the chocolate, the cigarettes^ 
the soap — do they reach you promptly? " 

" Yes, madame. Thank you, madame." 

The full-stop is more overpowering with each an- 
swer. 

I resort to more chatter, anything to fill that resound- j 



I 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 77 

ing silence. "Here we have been so busy! So many 
more American volunteers are coming over for the Am- 
bulance service, my husband has not a free moment. The 
children never see him. My little daughter is doing well 
in school. She begins to read French now. Of course 
the little son doesn't go to school, but he is learning to 
speak French like a French baby. It has been so cold 
here. There has been so little coal. You must have 
beard, the long lines waiting to get coal • . ." I stop 
with almost a shrug of exasperation. As well talk to 
a basalt statue as to Amieux, impassive, his rough red 
hands on his knees, his musette swollen with all the mis- 
cellaneous junk the poilu stuffs into that nondescript 
receptacle, his cap still firmly on his head . . . formal 
manners are not specialties of Amieux. And then I 
notice that one leg is thrust out, very stiff and straight, 
and has a big bulbous swelling which speaks of a bandage 
under the puttees. 

I glance at it. " Rheumatism ? Too much water in 
the trenches ? " 

He looks down at it without a flicker on his face. 
" No, madame, a wound." 

" Really? How did it happen this time? " 

He looks faintly bored. They always hate to tell how 
they were wounded. " Oh, no particular way. A shell 
had smashed up an abri, and while I was trying to pull 
my captain out from under the timbers another shell 
exploded near by." 

" Did you save the captain ? " 



'78 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

" Oh yes. He was banged up around the head. He's 
all right now/' 

" Were you there with him ? How did it happen you 
weren't buried under the wreck too? " 

" I wasn't there. I was in a trench. But I saw. I 
knew he was there." 

I am so used to Amieux's conversational style that I 
manage even through this arid narration to see what had j. 
happened. " Do you mean to say that you left the trendi 3 
and went out under shell-fire to rescue your captain 1 
And they didn't give you a decoration ! It's outrageous i 
not recognizing such bravery ! " 

He shuffles his feet and looks foolish. " The captain 
wanted to have me cited all right. He's a chic type, ,'( 
but I said he'd better not." 

" Don't you want the croix de guerre f '* I cry, 
astounded at such apathy even from Amieux. 

" Oh, I wouldn't mind. It's my mother." 

" Don't you suppose your mother would love to have 
her son decorated ? " I feel there must be some absurd 
misunderstanding between us, the man seems to be talking 
such nonsense. 

" Well, you see, my mother . . . my only brother !s 
was killed last winter. Maman worries a good deal about ^ 
me, and I told her, just so she could sleep quietly, yoOi 
know, I have told her my company isn't near the front at 
all. I said we were guarding a munitions depot at the 
rear." 

"Well ..." I am still at a loss. 



I 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 79 

" Well, don't you see, if I get the croix de guerre for 
being under fire, maman would get to worrying again. 
So I told my captain I'd rather he'd give it to one of the 
other fellows." 



I had just come from several hours spent with one of 
tiie war-blind, one of those among the educated, unre- 
figned war-blind, who see too clearly with the eyes of their 
intelligence what has happened to them. I had been with 
him, looking into his sightless face, pitting my strength 
against the bitterness of his voice; and I was tired, 
tired to the marrow of my bones, to the tip of every 
nerve. 

But the children had not been out for their walk and 
the day was that rare thing in a Paris March, a sunshiny 
one, not to be wasted. " Come, dears," I told them as 
I entered the apartment, " get on your wraps. We'll all 
go out for a play while the sun is still high." 

I walked along the street between them, my little 
daughter and my little son, their warm soft hands in 
mine. The sparrows chattered in the bare trees above 
us, the sparrows who even in this keen air felt the coming 
of spring which was foretold by the greening of the 
grass in the public squares. My children chattered inces- 
santly, like the sparrows. Perhaps they felt the spring 
too. I did not want to feel the spring. We turned away 
from the Seine and walked on one side of the open 
square before Notre Dame. 



8o 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



" Mother^ I caught my ball twenty-three times tcHl 

without missing/* I 

" Muvver, I see a white horse, a big white horsie! " 

" Mother, do you like arithmetic as well as histol 
/ don^'^ 

*' Muvver, I have a little p^tend doggie here, trotti 
after me, a little brown p'tend doggie," 

"Mother, O mother^ let me tell you what happened 
school to-day, during recess ! " 

Through the half -heard ripple of clear little voii 
there came upon me one of those thunder-claps of reali 
tion which, since the beginning of the war, have brouj 
wiser and stronger people than I to the brink of insaii 
— realization for an instant (longer than an instant woi 
carry any one over the brink) that the war is really goi 
on, realization of what the war really means, one glim 
of the black abyss. I felt very sick, and stood still ' 
an instant, because my knees shook under me. . , 

But those wiser and stronger ones had not little d 
dren of their own to draw them away from that bll 
gull . . , I was pulled at by impatient little hail 
lucid, ineffably pure eyes were turned up to mine, 
clear little voices grew louder, ^* Muvver, muvver, ] 
losing my mitten t " 

"Mother, why are you standing still? This isn' 
good place to play! There! A little nearer the 
church is some sand. And a bench for you/' 

How could I go on this everyday commonplace t 
eating, drinking, sleeping, caring for the children, cbc 



dn^H 



VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 8i 

•^ ing tfaem ... in such a wicked and imbecile world! 

: I looked up and down the bare, sun-flooded square. All 

F about me were other women, caring for little children. 

;. And for the most part, those other women were in 

mourning. But they were there under that cruel, careless 

sunshine, caring for their children, cheering them. . . . 

I put the little mitten on; I walked forward to the 

bench, the little singing voices died away to a ripple 

again. " Oh, this is fine ! See, little brother, here is a 

cave already. Let me have that stick!" "No, me! 

Mer' 

That was what was sounding in my ears. But what 

I heard was a muffled voice saying scornfully: " Re- 

: education . . . courage, taking up our lives again 

... oh yes, whatever you please to imagine to distract 

our attention ! But we are finished men, done for . . . 

lost!" 

My children played before me in the sunshine, but 

. what I saw were the scarred, mutilated, sightless faces 

> of young men in their prime, with long lives of darkness 

f: before them. And as I sat there, then, that instant, other 

y joimg men in their prime were being blinded, were being 

I mutilated for life. 

My fatigue deepened till it was like lead upon me. 
i Under it I was cold. The sun did not warm me. It fell 
J like a mockery upon a race gone mad, upon a world 
bankrupt in hope. Yes, what we suffered was not the 
. worst, not even what they suffered, the men at the front; 
:.. what was worst was the fact that the meatvm^ oi \\. ^ 



83 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



was hopelessness, was the end* a black end to all 
had looked forward to, striven for , - , paralj 
death in life. And an indifferent sun shining down 
it, as it had on our illusions. 

After a time the children tired of sand. *' Mot 
mayn't we go in the big church? You never have tal 
us inside What does it look like? '* 

Their restless upspringing life thrust my paralysis 
as an upspringing young tree cleaves the boulder wl 
would hamper it. We poshed open the heavy lea 
door and stepped into the huge cavern, our eyes so 
of the glare of the sunshine that, as we walked foriS 
up the nave, we could see nothing but velvety darku 
faintly scented with mold and incense. 

The silence was so intense that I could hear my 9 
angry heart beating furiously rn my breast. . , 

Further along before us, where rich-colored pat 
lay, on the stone pavement, there was the light fi 
the great rose-windows. , . . We stood there now, 
eyes slowly clearing, the blackness slowly fading out : 
twilight, to a sweet, clear translucent dimness which 
nothing 

Silence, long, shadowy veiled aisles, hushed 
mensity, , « . 

A great calm hand seemed laid on my shoulder^ 
that my fever sank, my pulses were quieted. I sH 
motionless, feeling slowly pulsating through me a va^ 
rhythm than the throbbing irregularity of my own 




■^ VIGNETTES FROM LIFE AT THE REAR 83 

heart. A great soundless benediction was breathed 
me out of the man-wrought beauty around and 
e me. 

~: up, up, up, I raised my eyes, following the soaring of 
le many-columned pillars, and something in my heart 
its leaden bonds and soared up out of my 
It . . . 
Yes, here was beauty, here was that beauty I had for- 
and denied . . . and men had made it! It had 
ig to do with the glare of the indifferent sun, with 
callous face of our calamity. Men had made this 
luty, imperfect, warring, doubting, suffering, sinning 
teen had upreared this perfect creation. They had cre- 
mated this beauty out of their faith in righteousness, and 
flicy would again create other beauty, out of other mani- 
festations of righteousness, long after this war was a 
forgotten nightmare. . . . 
"What is that shining on your face, mother? " 

!I put my hand up. My cheeks are wet. "Tears, 
ifcar.*' 
" O mother, why do you cry ? " 
^ " Because I am very happy, my darling." 




A FAIR EXCHANGE 

The energetic, well-dressed man who walked 
quickly in spite of his gray hair was quite out of breath 
from the unusual experience of mounting stairs on foolr 
when he stepped into the anteroom. There he looked 
about him with a keenly observant eye. The room ba^ 
obviously not been intended as the entrance to moderil 
offices. Its dingy, paneled walls and darkened carvoA 
ceiling dated at least from the time when the ancestori 
of the newcomer were hunting Indians in the untracked] 
forests of Massachusetts. It was a forlorn cheeriest^ 

i 

apology for a convenient, well-equipped business waiting-^ 
room. And yet the intelligent, keen eyes now loddng al 
it saw in it . . . what? Something he could not analyz^ 
something he tried to express. " What the devil is ii| 
about their little old holes . . . ? " he asked himself wi4 
the fresh vivid curiosity which was his habit aboul 
phenomena new to him. 

A one-armed young soldier, in a worn blue unifomfc 
with a patch over one eye, rose up from the cane4xil^ 
tomed chair, took from the white-pine table a small pafl 
of paper and held it out to the newcomer sketching ai 
bow. The older man looked the other way seduloustjr^^ 
He was a very tender-hearted person (except of 
for his business competitors) and the constant sight 

H 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 85 

the maimed wreckage of young manhood made him 
sick. 

On the pad of paper was printed ** Nom du Visiteur," 
with a blank following it, and, underneath, " Objet de la 
visite/' Mr. Hale's French was limited, but he made 
out that he was to write down who he was and what his 
^business was, and generously he admired the little detail 
^ of office administration which he had never happened 
;to see in an American business office. "That beats 
I sending in a message by the office-boy, all right!" he 
• ttiought to himself as he wrote. " They are funny peo- 
■ ple! Just when you get absolute proof that they can't 
do business any more than a sick cat, you run into some- 
thing that makes you wonder.'* 

He had written on the pad " Randolph Metcalf Hale, 
President of the Illinois Association of Druggists," and, 
underneath that, **On business connected with closer 
oonmiercial relations of France and the United States." 
As he handed the slip of paper back to the young soldier 
\ ht thought, " I might about as well get a rubber stamp 
ior that last, and save writing it over so often." 

The uniformed messenger limped out of the room. 
** Oh Lord ! and a wooden leg, along with only one eye 
and one arm," thought Mr. Hale, wincing at the too 
familiar sound of the halting gait. He thrust his hands 
deep into his pockets and stood meditatively looking 
down at his own vigorous, well-clad legs. 

The soldier came back and motioned the visitor to 
follow him. They went along a narrow corridor with 






86 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



occasional steps up and other steps dowm with 111 
old windows looking out through time-dimmed pai 
upon a stone-paved court with an old gray stone fa 
tain. The American shook his head. " Never anythi 
new! Always cutting their clothes out of their goi 
fa therms left-overs and sewing them up by hand; thl 
it, everything hand-made ! '* 

He was ushered into an office where a man of ah 
his own age, with a black beard, streaked with whi 
rose up and came towards him with outstretched hal 

** Ninth to-day," noted the American mentally* 
amused himself by keeping statistics on the fabui 
amount of handshaking accomplished m French btisiq 
life. 

Then he explained his presence. Partly because] 
accounted it a crime to take longer than necessary to : 
your businesSf and partly because he had stated it, 
many times, he packed a succinct account of himself ; 
comparatively few phrases, 

" Like almost everybody else in America, Moc 
Portier, I want to help make up to France for the wi; 
she's been having the rough end of all this wan 
everybody does best at his own sort of help; 
didn't come over for reconstructing villages or 
care of refugees* That sort of work's got to be done^ 
course, but there are a lot of our own folks at that al 
ready* Anyhow, not knowing your language, or ytm 
folks, I'd make a poor job of trying to fix up tbd 
personal lives. That^s not my specialty. But I he 



tie wi; 

J 

on^ 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 



87 



tecialty, and that's the American toilet preparations 
isiness- And it occurred to me out there in Evanston 
lat perhaps getting American business along my line 
Dined up closer with French business would be as good 
L turn as I could do for France. After all, though it 
ioes give you the horrors to see the poor boys with their 
legs and arms shot off, that doesn't last but one genera- 
fen. But business now - . * all the future is there!" 
'His eye kindled. He had evidently pronounced his credo. 
Tlie attentive Frenchman behind the desk nodded, ac- 
l^ltuescing in carefully accurate English: ** Precisely, Mr 
I Hale. You had the very same idea which induced my 
I Government to organize this committee of which I am 
LSecRUry, I am more than at your disposition,*' 
■ ^ I know it/' said the American without further ex- 
ffsssion of gratitude than this recognition, " and that's 
' % I'm here. Tve got to a place where I need some 
%^ It's this way; I've done a lot of straight business, 
' ^ ^ean paying business. And I've managed that all 
I've got the rails laid for our sending over drug 
tialties you don't have here and for shipping to the 
ttes the toilet preparations specialties I find here. But 
Tm here I want to do more than just regular busi- 
ss. Now that I see your country and take in what 
war's been, and think what you've been up against 
' , . well. Monsieur Portierj I tell you I want to do 

k£thing for France ! " 
e said this with a simple, heartfelt sincerity which 
loved the Frenchman to lean from his chair and give 




m 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



him a silent handshake of appreciation. The Ameri^ 
forgot to add this to his total for the day, going on 
nestly with his story: '' And so, I keep my eyes opea' 
the time for little good turns I can do. I don't m 
charity . , . honestly^ I think that does about as mi 
harm as good, though of course we have to go throi^ 
the motions in a time like this. I mean business g< 
turns, such as I'd like to have anybody do me, looI< 
my concern with a fresh eye and tell me how I cd 
make it better, or else tell me where I could fini 
bigger market You understand ? Like that. Now 
been doing business with a big chemical factory out 
the country near Paris* The nearest place to it^ for 
is Versailles - . , maybe you happen to know ^ 
sailles?" 

The Frenchman nodded gravely* Yes, he had a 
tied sister living in Versailles. *' Well, there's a li 
drug-store out there, one of these peaceful, si 
looking, home-and-mother French drug-stores, wit 
big cat dozing in the window, and somebody in a 
apron putting up pills behind the counter, and so fa' 
anybody from my part of the world can see, not cna 
business doing from one week's end to another^ to bi 
postage-stamp,'^ , 

The Frenchman laughed. " Oh, it's a very good I 
ness in France being a pharmadenf^ 

" That's what everybody tells me, and thafs what 
me* One of the things that gets me! In our coo 
when there is any business being done you hear 



t 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 89 

wheels going 'round/ I can't get used to this smooth 
European way of doing it and not letting on. Well, my 
main interest in life being the toilet preparations business 
I hardly ever go by one without stopping in. You never 
know when you're going to run onto something worth- 
while. Well, out there in Versailles, I certainly did. I 
1^ ran onto a genius. Yes, sir, that's not too much to say; a 
I genius! Any man who can make a cold cream like 
t that . . /' 

J He interrupted himself to ask: " You don't happen to 

F be up on cold cream? No? It's a pity, because you 

can't appreciate what that man is doing. By George, I 

" never saw anything like it, and I've dealt in cold creams 

■ for thirty years! It's got anything in America beaten a 

mile ! The two great faults of cold cream, you see, are 

4 being greasy and being crumbly. This isn't either. And 

^ it keeps ! He showed me some he'd had for four years 

^ in a pot, with just a flat earthenware lid laid on top, and 

T you wouldn't believe it, Monsieur Portier, but it hadn't 

"^rdianged an atom, not an atom! And the fineness of it! 

'-^ The least little pinch between your fingers, and it just 

"-Tanks right into your pores before your eyes! It's like 

•^-f cream, thick, rich cream off a three-days-set pan of milk, 

! and yet it don't run ! And the perfume ! Monsieur 

• • ' Portier, I give you my word for it, and I know what I'm 

talking about, the perfume that little old druggist out in 

"-_ his dinky little old shop has got into his cold cream is 

the only refined cold cream perfume I ever smelled! It 

makes all the others smell like a third-rate actress. It's 



90 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

got a . . . it's got a . . . '' He hesitated, searching for 
exactly the right word and brought it out with enthua^ 
asm, " it's got a clean smell, if you get me, like a nice 
girl after a bath! I've got daughters of my own," hc^ 
added in whimsical justification of his metaphor. 

The Frenchman had been watching him with appre^ 
ciative eyes. " Mr. Hale, I see that, like so many of 
your countrymen, you are a real artist in your line, and 
you have the artist's flavor." 

The American was disconcerted by this characteriza- 
tion. "Who? Me? I know a good thing when I sec 
it, that's all, and that's business, that's not art" 

The Frenchman smiled with the amused, respectful 
sympathy which jnen of his race so often feel for their ; 
American contemporaries. "Well, and what did yo« 
do when you discovered this miraculous cold cream?" 

Mr. Hale laughed, a young, vigorous laugh which 
made his gray hair seem a paradox. " Well, you've 
guessed it. I threw a fit, first of all. I was taken oflF 
my feet, and I wouldn't be surprised if I acted like a cat 
over catnip. So I decided I'd better go away and o 
off before I did anything rash. I bought a couple of poti ^ 
and went back to the hotel to sleep on it. That's son^ r 
thing I always try to do, Monsieur Portier, before I lefi 
myself in for a big proposition; and I meant this to ht 
big, all right. I wanted to see if that cold cream seemrf 
as good after twenty-four hours as it did at first. WcD, i 
it did, and then some ! So I got the Swede porter at vaf 
hotel, who can talk some English, to go back with r&Bi 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 91 

and I started in to ask the old fellow all about it. Right 
icre I struck a difference. After the way I'd gone on, 
ti American, when I went back the next day, would have 
een wondering what I was trying to take away from 
im ; but my old friend was just as pleased as a mother 

when you tell her she's got a pretty baby. In fact he 
tminded me of that, the way he talked. So glad to tell 
e all about it. I got the impression before he got 
trough that it was a member of the family. I don't 
can, of course, that he told me how he made it. I 
ouldn't have let him if he'd started to. But he told 
e everything else. To begin with, he told me that his 
ilks have been pharmacists right there for more than a 
indred years! A hundred years in that little shop in 
at little street in that little town ! I tell you. Monsieur 
ortier, I never can get used to the way your people 
ay put." 

The Frenchman looked grave. " Perhaps too much 
>, Mr. Hale." 

** Anyhow, he said they had the recipe, the first recipe 
>r that cold cream in his great-grandfather's handwrit- 
[g. He said there'd been some talk always in the family 
Knit its having come from his great-grandfather's 
ither, who had sold toilet specialties to Marie Antoi- 
5tte, the queen, you know. He said he himself didn't 
ke much stock in that story because everybody in 
ranee, more or less, claimed to have a great-grandfather 
ho'd had dealings with Marie Antoinette, but I just 
lought to myself what a good smart a.d\^t\A^^TCvRx>X. 



92 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



agency could do with that item • , . you could see it I 
every billboard between New York and San FrandM 
• , . ' Marie Antoinette's own cold cream, rediscovOT 
recipe/ If you've been in America, you can imagiim 

" Yes/' said the Frenchman, '* I can imagine/' I 

** He said, of course, they had not stuck absolutely^ 
that recipe just as it stood. His grandfather had mad 
some changes, experimented with it all his life, and hii 
father had changed the proportions, just little shadings 
with years in between, to think them over and to be siiT« 
they were right. But he himself had changed it th 
most, because modern chemistry had let him substitub 
for one ingredient that had never been just right, some 
thing else that exactly filled the bill. Do you know, Mi 
sieur Portier, as he stood there telling me how, foj 
hundred years, three generations of his folks had 
centrated on that, I said to myself : ' By George, there' 
reason! No wonder it's better than any of our 
there-quick products. They've certainly got tis beat 

To this handsome tribute the Frenchman replied 
biously: "It is very generous, Mr. Hale, to say sue 
thing. But since taking over the work on this comi 
tee I have had periods of great depression when it 
seemed to me that no power on earth, not even Amerii 
energy from which I hope a great deal, could ever oh 
our trades-people from their century-old habits of bi 
ness inertia and lack of enterprise/* 

*'We11, I understand that^ too/' agreed the Ameri 
sympathetically; " I certainly do, because that's just v 



Mm 

I 

re' 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 93 

f*ve come to see you about. We went on with our con- 
fab, my old friend and I, and he showed me his books 
o show how the sale of the cold cream had grown 
ince they began on it. It seems they've had quite a lot 
►f their customers for sixty or seventy years. Not Ver- 
ailles people at all, you know, people from all over, 
eople who had tried it once and never would have 
nother, and I don't blame them. He's got quite a lot 
f aristocrats on his list. He showed me names on his 
ccount book that made it look like a history of France. 
Veil, the sum-total of it came to this. His grandfather 
Did on an average three hundred pots a year, which was 
ood for those days; in his father's time it went up, so 
e said, astonishingly, to fifteen hundred pots a year; 
ut he had done even better, and in his little factory- 
iboratory that he'd had to enlarge, he made four thou- 
and pots a year and sold them all. 'More than ten 
hnes what his grandfather had done.* " 

In repeating these statistics he reproduced with an 
ronical exactness the tone of self-congratulation of the 
»harmacist. The man before him fell into the little trap, 
emarking innocently: "That is indeed making a re- 
narkable enlargement." 

The American sat up straight in his chair so suddenly 
hat he gave the effect of having leaped to his feet. 
'Remarkable! Why, it was all I could do to keep from 
itting right down and crying. Remarkable! Why, 
jrith the article he has there, the family ought to 
ave been millionaires a g^eneration ago\ Ktv^X^oA.^ ^\^ 



94 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



a particle of business imagination would have put it 
the bathroom shelf of every family in Christendoi 
He went on, more quietly : " I said something of that 
the old fellow and I tried, through that hotel porter, 
make him understand what my proposition was, to ^ 
up his cold cream. To take it up strong. I outlined ] 
plan for the advertising campaign, I told him some 
the figures of our toilet preparations market, and I t 
him I*d guarantee him in less than six months' time 
have a demand for fifteen hundred gross pots and by th 
end of the first year it would pass the four thousanii 
gross mark. I told him just how I could get him en 
on the easiest terms for the enlargement of his plant 
one of our Merchants* Associations is prepared to 
credit to French and Belgian firms^ and I was just si 
ing in to explain how it woiildn't be any risk for hiiaj 
all, and absolute certain big profits for him and his 
. , . he's got a son at the front now who's passed 
pharmacist's examination and is ready to go on with h 
father's business. . . /' 

He stopped short for a moment, staring into space 
though recalling the scene, 

** Well/' prompted the French listener, " what 
he say ? " 

** He said, as near as I could make out from what 
hotel porter told me, he said he didn^t want to/* repl 
the American, in the carefully restrained voice of 
who recounts an enormity so patent that there is no 
for emphasis to bring out its monstrousness, ** 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 95 

from what the hotel porter said, I took it that he said he 
didn't want to! It wasn't that he was afraid of losing 
money, or that he suspected a skin deal ... at least 
liiat was what he said . . . nor that he doubted a single 
thing I said, it was just that he guessed he didn't feel 
like it to-day, thank you." 

He reached for his hat and stood up. " There, Mon- 
sieur Portier, there's where I am. I started to argue, 
of course. I tried to'^get at what in hell was the matter 
anyhow. But I soon saw I was up against something too 
big for that hotel porter to manage. So I came to see 
if you would go back with me, or send somebody who's 
got good sense and business experience, and help me 
make that proposition all over again. It must be of 
course that that hotel porter got the thing all balled up, 
the way he put it. I ought to have known better than 
to trust it to a Swede, anyhow." 

Monsieur Portier looked at the calendar on his desk. 
" Yes, I shall be glad to go out with you. Let me see, to- 
day is Monday, next Thursday afternoon." 

The visitor's face dropped. "Not till Thursday!" 
he cried, as though that date were in the next century. 
" I was hoping you could go right back with me now. 
Fve got a taxi waiting downstairs." 

The Frenchman's face wore for an instant a look of 
consternation which changed into a rather curious, 
strained expression. Then he said with the accent of 
heroism, laughing a little, " Yes, Mr. Hale, there is 
really no valid reason for my not gomg m\\v ^qvsl xvkw^ 



96 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



at this instantj, and I wiU ! " He seemed to regard th 
resolution as an extraordinary one, adding whimsicallj 
as he put on his overcoat, *' Ah, you can never, nev< 
understand, my dear Mr. Hale, the awful effort o 
will it costs a European to do something the mc 
ment it is suggested instead of putting it oif till the nex 
week," 

" No," said the American heartily, " that*s somethi 
I never will understand." 



As they approached the shining windows of the pha 
macy, where as a matter of fact a big, beautifully care 
for cat was sleeping in the sun, the Frenchman 
claimed ; '' Oh, it*s Monsieur Requine*s pharmacy ! T' 
known him for years^ ever since my sister came to Hi 
in Versailles, I didn't think it could be he because yc 
spoke of him always as old/* i 

" Isn't he?" asked the American, 
'* Fifty-two. Is that old? I hope not" 
** Fifty-two! Tm fifty- four myself! That's one 
me!" 

" What made you think him old ? His hair isn^t whit 
He hasn't any wrinkles. Really, I'm curious to knowJ 
The American stopped on the curbstone, ponderit 
his alert mind interested by the little problem in sel^ 
analysis. *'What did make me, I wonder?*' 
glanced in through the open door and said : " Well, jul 
look at him as he stands there, his hands clasped ovi 
his stomach, — ^you can see for yourself. It's a kind 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 97 

settled-down-to-stay look that I'm not used to seeing un- 
less a man is so old that he can't move on any more." 

The Frenchman looked at the druggist and then at 
the man beside him. " Yes, I see what you mean," he 
admitted. He said it with a sigh. 

They entered the shop. The druggist came forward 
with a smile, and shook hands heartily with them both. 
" Eleven," noted the American mentally. 

" Monsieur Requine," said the French visitor, " can't 
we go through into your salon, or perhaps out into your 
garden for a little talk?" Mr. Requine glowed with 
hospitality. " Yes, yes, delighted. I'll just ask my wife 
to step here to mind the shop." 

''His wife!'' asked the American, "to wait on cus- 
tomers?" 

A well-dressed, tall, full-bosomed woman of forty- 
odd, with elaborately dressed black hair and a much 
powdered, intelligent face came in answer to the call 
and installed herself back of the counter with her knit- 
ting. 

" Yes, and she knows as much about the business end 
as he does, you may be sure," said the Frenchman as they 
went through a door at the back of the shop, emerging, 
not, as the American expected, into a storeroom, but 
into an attractive parlor. They passed through the salon, 
into an exquisitely kept little dining-room and out into 
a walled garden which made the American pass his hand 
over his eyes and look again. While their host was 
installing them at the little round green iion l-aJokV^ \«jArx 



98 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



a trellis overgrown by a magnificent grapevine, Mfl 
Hale's eyes traveled from one point to another of m 
small paradise before him. It could not have been mon 
than a hundred feet wide and three hundred long, bi 
like a fabled spot in the " Arabian Nights '* it shoJ 
resplendent with incredible riches. The stone walls, b 
feet high, were carpeted to the top with a mantle of gli 
tening green leaves, among which hung peaches an 
pears, glorious to the view, rank on rank, such fruit 
the American had never thought could exist. On 
side of the graveled path down the center were flowe; 
plants, like great bouquets each. Back of them wt 
more fruit-trees, none more than eight feet tall, bearii 
each a dozen or more amazing apples, as brightly color 
as the flowers* Around the trees were vegetables, a 
rots, salads, cabbages, every specimen as floridly fa 
leafed and perfect as the incredible pictures Mr, Hj 
had seen, and disbelieved in, on the front cl seed cat 
logues. 

From the other end of the garden, drenched in si 
shine, came the humming of bees. Above their heads 
climbing rose covering the end of the house sent doi 
a clear, delicate perfume from its hundred flowera 

The American's eyes came back from their inspectii 
of all this and rested with a new expression on his rath 
snuffy, rather stout and undistinguished host, " W 
you please tell Monsieur Requine from me/* he said 
his companion, ** that I never saw such a garden in i 
life?" 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 



$9 



Monsieur Requine waved the tribute away with sin* 
[oere humility, '*Oh, it's nothing compared to those all 
' about me* I can't give it the time I would like to. Later 
on, when I am retired, and my son has the business , . ." 
his gesture seemed to indicate wider horizons of horticul- 
tural excellence before which the American's imagina- 
^tion recoiled breathless. 

The straw-colored liqueur had been poured out into 
the glasses, which were, so Mr. Hale noticed, of ex- 
tremely fine and delicate workmanship , , , *'and his 
Iwife tending shopl*' The two Frenchmen drank with 
'ceremonious bowings and murmured salutations, Mr, 
[Hale consumed his fiery draught silently but with a not 
j ungraceful self-possession. He was at his ease with all 
kinds of ways of taking a drink. 

Then, drawing a long breath, taking off his hat and 
putting his elbows on the table, he began to expound and 
the French official with him to translate. The bees 
hummed a queer, unsuitable accompaniment to his 
resonant, forceful staccato. 

He talked a long time. The patches of sunlight which 
fell through the vines over their heads had shifted their 
places perceptibly when he stopped^ his head high, his 
gray eagle's eyes flashing. 

The elderly Frenchman opposite him had listened in- 
tently; his fat, wrinkled hands crossed on his waistcoat, 
an expression of thoughtful consideration on his broad 
face and in his small, very intelligent brown eyes. When 
^e American finished speaking, he bent his head co\33l- 



100 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



teously and said : " Mr. Hale, you have spoken 



touch 



great eloquence- But you have forgottei 
matter, and that is the reason for my doing all that y\ 
outline so enthusiastically* Why should I ? '' II i? 
evidently a genuine and not a rhetorical question, for 
paused for a reply, awaiting it with sincere curiosity 
his face. He received none, however, the fluent Ann 
can being totally at a loss. " Why should you ? ** he s 
blankly. '* I don't believe I understand you,*' The t* 
exchanged a long puzzled look across the little tafc 
centuries and worlds apart. 

" Why^ I mean/^ Monsieur Requine went on final 
" I don't see any possible reason for embarking in sue! 
terrifyingly vast enterprise as you outline; no reason i 
and many against. To speak of nothing else, I am abi 
lately, morally certain that my cold cream '' (he sp< 
of it with respect and affection) " would immedial 
deteriorate if it were manufactured on such an inhuiS 
scale of immensity as you plan, with factories here i 
factories there, run by mercenary superintendents 
had no personal interest in its excellence, with misc 
laneous workmen picked up out of the street haphaz^ 
Why, Mr. Hale, you have no idea of the difficulti 
have, as it is, to get and train and keep serious, * 
scientious work-people* I should be lost without 
little nucleus of old helpers who have been with our fa 
ily for two generations and who set the tone of our sn 
factory. They have the reputation and fine quality 
our cold cream at heart as much as we of the fami 



m 



i 



A FAIR EXCHANGE loi 

They help us in the selection of the newer, younger 
workers whom we need to fill the ranks, they help us 
to train them in the traditions and methods of our work, 
and with patience teach them, one by one, year by year, 
the innumerable little fine secrets of manipulation which 
have been worked out since my grandfather began the 
manufacture there in that room back of you in 1836. 
Our recipe is much of course, it is all important ; but it is 
not all. Oh no, Mr. Hale, it is not all. We put into our 
cold cream beside the recipe, patience, conscience, and 
pride, and that deftness of hand that only comes after 
years of training. You cannot buy those qualities on the 
market, not for any price. To think of my recipe put 
into the hands of money-making factory superintendents 
and a rabble horde of riffraff workmen! . . . Mr. 
Hale, you must excuse me for saying that I am aston- 
ished at your proposing it, you who have shown by your 
generous appreciation of its qualities that you are so 
worthy a member of our guild." 

He paused, stirred from his usual equable calm and 
waited for an answer. But he still received none. The 
American was staring at him across an unfathomable 
chasm of differences. 

Monsieur Requine continued: "And as for me per- 
sonally, I am almost as astonished that you propose it. 
For nothing in all the world would I enter upon such a 
life as you depict, owing great sums of money to begin 
with, for no matter how * easy ' your business credit 
may be made in the modern world, the fact remains 



Ida 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



that I should lie down at night and rise up in the mcM 

ing conscious that thousands of men had intrusted th 
money to me, that I might easily, by one false step 
piece of bad judgment^ lose forever money which mea 
life to poor women or old men. Such a fiery trial wq 
shrivel me up. It would be my death, I who have nei 
Lowed a penny in my life. And then what? Even 
the utmost success which you hold out, I should havi 
life which, compared with what I now have, would 
infernal; rushing to and fro over the face of the ear 
away from home, my wife, my children, homeless 
half the time, constantly employed in the most moroi 
tous and important decisions where in order to succe 
I must give all of myself, all, all, my brain, my perse 
ality, my will power, my soul . . . what would be left 
me for leisure moments? Nothing! I should be an em 
husk, drained of everything that makes me a livi 
and a human being. But of course there would not 
any leisure moments* * . * I see from what yon 
eloquently say that I would have become the slave 9 
not the master of that invention which has come dol 
to me from my fathers; that instead of its furnishing 
and my work*people with a quiet, orderly, conteni 
life, I should onJy exist to furnish it means for a wi 
fantastic growth, like something in a nightmare, becai 
a real growth is never like that, never ! 

" Mr. Hale, do you know what I do of an •vent! 
in the summer? I leave the shop at half-past five or 
and I step into my garden, where I work till half-p 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 103 

icven, when I am most exquisitely hungry. We dine 
lere under this vine, my wife, my daughters, and my 
km (he who is now at the front). Afterwards we sit 
ind chat and exchange impressions of the day, as the 
noon comes up or the stars come out. Perhaps some of 
he young friends of the children drop in for a game 
)f cards. My wife and I sit down at the other end 
)f the garden on the stone bench where we sat when she 
ame* here as a bride, where my father and mother sat 
M^hen they were bride and groom. The stars come out. 
[ smoke my pipe and watch them. Mr. Hale, it is very 
mrprising, the things which come into your head, if you 
at quietly and watch the stars come out. I would not 
miss thinking them for anything in the world. We talk 
I little, my wife knits. We meditate a great deal. We 
liear the gay voices of our children coming to us mingled 
mth the breatli of the roses. We have finished another 
day, and we are very glad to be there, alive, with each 
cither, in our garden. When we come in, my wife 
makes me a cup of tisane and while I sip that I read, 
sometimes a little of Montaigne, sometimes a little of 
Horace, sometimes something modem. And all that 
while, Mr. Hale, there is in our home, in our hearts, 
the most precious distillation of peace, the ..." 

For some moments the American had been surging 
inwardly, and he now boiled over with a great wave of 
words. "Will you just let me tell you what you've 
been describing to me, Monsieur Requine? The life of 
an old, old man . . . and you're youngtt tfeaxv 1 ^xc^\ 



I04 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



And will you let me tetl you what Vd call your * peace] 
rd call it laziness! Why, that's the kind of life 



i 



would suit an oyster right down to the ground 
by George, that's the kind of life that gave the Bocl 
their strangle-hold on French commerce before the Wi 
They weren't afraid of good credit when it was held 
to them ! They had it too easy, with nobody to stand 
against them but able-bodied men willing to sit down 
their gardens in the evenings and meditate on the si 
instead of thinking how to enlarge their business! 
bet they didn't read Horace instead of a good technii 
magazine that would keep them up to date, Why^ Mi 
sieur Requine, I give you my word, X have never lool 
inside my Horace since the day I took the final exam 
it! I wouldn't dream of doing it ! What would busi 
come to if everybody sagged back like that? You di 
seem to realize what business is, modern business, 
not just soulless materialistic mone^r-making, it^s 
great, big, wide road that leads human beings to progri 
It's what lets humanity get a chance to satisfy its 
and get more wants, and satisfy them, and get m^ 
and conquer the world from pole to pole. It*s what gi^ 
men, grown men, with big muscles, obstacles of tl 
size to get through. It gives them problems that 
all their strength and brain power to solve, that k 
them fit and pink and tiptoe with ambition and zip, aJ 
prevents them from lying down and giving up when 
see a hard proposition coming their way, such as ch 
ing a small factory into a big one and keeping the pri 



al 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 105 

tact up to standard. Business, modem business keeps a 
Qnan alive so that when he sees a problem like that he 
doesn't give a groan and go and prune his roses, he just 
kears right in and does it ! " 

Monsieur Requine listened to the translation of this 
impassioned credo with the expression of judicial cc^- 
^deration which was evidently the habitual one upon his 
face. At the end he stroked his beard meditatively and 
looked into space for a time before answering. When 
he spoke, it was with a mildness and quiet which made 
liim indeed seem much the older of the two, a certain 
patient good humor which would have been impossible 
to the other man. " Mr. Hale, you say that my concep- 
tion of life looks like laziness to you. Do you know how 
yours looks to me? Likle a circle of frenzied worshipers 
iaround a fiery Moloch, into whose maw they cast every- 
Aing that makes life sweet and livable, leisure, love, af- 
fection, appreciation of things rare and fine. My friend, 
humanity as a whole will never be worth more than the 
lives of its individuals are worth, and it takes many, 
many things to make individual lives worth while. It 
takes a mixture, and it needs, among other elements, some 
quiet, some peace, some leisure, some occupation with 
things of pure beauty like my roses, some fellowship 
with great minds of the past. . . ." His eyes took on a 
dreamy deepening glow. " Sometimes as I dig the earth 
among my fruit-trees, the old, old earth, a sentence from 
Epictetus, or from Montaigne comes into my head, all 
at once luminous as I never saw it before. I have a 



io6 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



vision of things very wide, very free, very fine* 
most, for a moment, Mr. Hale, almost for a mome 
feel that I understand life/' 

The American stood up to go with a gesture of 
ity. He put his hat firmly on his head and saidj 
pitying valedictory: "Monsieur Requine, you're on 
wrong track. Take it from me that nobody can und 
stand life. The best thing to do with life is to 
it!" 

The Frenchman, still seated, still philosophic, made a 
humorous gesture, "Ah, there are as many different 
opinions as there are men about what that meansi to * 1 
lifeM" 



In the cab going back to Paris the American said lit 
Once he remarked almost to himself, " The thing I 
get over is that his damned cream is better than anyt 
we make," 

The French official emerged from a thoughtful sile 
of his own to comment: " Mr. Hale, the generosity of 
that remark is only equaled by its perspicacity! U 
makes me more than ever concerned for the future of 
French commerce/' 



Tsm 



That evening Monsieur Requine was stooping ove 
dwarf-apple tree, string in one handi pruning shears 
the other. He was clipping away all except one of the 
vigorous young shoots. That one he then laid alor 
wire, strung about a foot from the ground and 




A FAIR EXCHANGE 107 

last at several points so that in growing it would fol- 
low the exact line traced by the horizontal wire. When 
be finished he gathered up all the clipped shoots, put 
them under his arm, and stood looking at the severely 
disciplined little tree, which did not look in the least like 
a tree any more. The sight apparently suggested an 
analogy to his mind, for he said in the tone of one who 
makes an admission: "It's true one does it for apple- 
trees and vines.'* After considering this for a moment, 
he shook his head with decision, " But not for human 
beings, no.'* 

And yet his brow was far from clear as he be- 
took himself to the stone bench at the end of the gar- 
den. 

When his wife wenf out later to join him, she missed 
the glow of his pipe and inquired, a little troubled, 
**Why, Rene, you've forgotten to light your pipe! 
what's the matter?" 

"Adele, do you remember, just before the order for 
mobilization came, how Robert wanted to travel a year 
in America to study American business and to see some- 
thing of other conditions ? Perhaps I was wrong not to 
consent. I've been sitting here thinking it over. Per- 
haps when he comes back [they always forced themselves 
to say " when " and never " if "] perhaps we would better 
let him go, before he settles down to take my place." 
He took her hand and held it for a moment. " Do you 
know, Adele, after all, the world changes, perhaps more 
than we realize^ here in Versailles.'- 



io8 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

That evening Mr. Hale sat in his hotel bedroom widi 
all the electric lights blazing, and filled sheet after shed i 
with elaborate calculations. He was concerned with aa 
important detail of transatlantic transportation to whidi 
he did not believe half enough attention had been paid: 
the question as to what form of carrier is the best for 
certain breakable objects which he was arranging to send 
in large quantities into the States. The quantities were 
so large that if he could effect a small saving of spaoe^ 
with no increase of the breakage per cent, the sum-total 
would be considerable. 

He figured out the relative cubic contents in boxes 
of a given dimension and in barrels, having always had 
a leaning towards barrels himself. He looked up tedi- 
nical tables as to the relative weight of sawdust, pow- 
dered cork, and excelsior, together with the statistics 
as to the relative amount of breakage with each sort 
of packing. His days were so filled with " seeing peo* 
pie " that he often thought the evenings were the on^ 
times he had to do "real work," the careful, minute, 
infinitely patient, and long-headed calculations which had 
made him the wealthy man he was. 

The room was very hot and close, with all its win- 
dows and shutters closed and its curtains drawn to kcqp 
the light from showing in the street, a recent air-raid 
having tightened up the regulations about lights. The 
American's face was flushed, his eyes hot and smarting) 
his collar first wilted, and then laid aside. But he was 
accustomed to pay small heed to discomforts when there 



A FAIR EXCHANGE 



109 



i,was work to be done, and continued obstinately strug- 
gling with the problems of cubic feet contained in a 
compartment of a ship s hold of given dimensions with 
given curves to the sides. The curve of the sides gave 
him a great deal of trouble, as he had quite forgotten 
I the formulse of abstract mathematics which would have 
solved the questioOi never having concerned himself with 
abstract mathematics since the day he had taken the final 
examination in that subject. 

He sat up, wiping his forehead, rubbing his eyes. 
Behind the lids, for an instant shut, there swam before 
his eyes the garden in which he had sat that afternoon, 
green and hidden and golden. The perfume from the 
roses floated again about him* 

He opened his eyes on the gaudy, banal hotel bedroom, 
I cruelly lighted with the hard gaze of the unveiled electric 
bulbs. He felt very tired. 

" IVe half a notion to call that enough for to-night," 
he said to himself, standing up from the table. 

He snapped off the electric lights and opened the shut- 
ters. A clear, cool breath of outdoor air came in si- 
lently, filling the room and his lungs. The moonlight lay 
in a wide pool at his feet and on the balcony before his 
window. He hesitated a moment, glanced out at the 
sky, and pulled an armchair out on the balcony- 
There was a long silence while he puffed at a cigar 
and while the moon dropped lower. At first he went on 
thinking of cubic feet and relative weights, but presently 
his cigar began to glow less redly. After a time it went 



no HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ' 

i 

out unheeded. The hand which held it dropped on the. 
arm of the chair, loosely. 

The man stirred, relaxed all his muscles, and stretched 
himself out in the chair, tipping his head back to see the 
stars. 

He sat thus for a long, long time, while the constella- 
tions wheeled slowly over his head. Once he murmured 
meditatively, " Maybe we do hit it up a little too fast" 

He continued looking up at the stars, and present^ 
drew from the contemplation of those vast spaces an- 
other remark. It was one which had often casually 
passed his lips before, but never with the accent of can 
viction. For never before had he believed it. He said 
it earnestly, now, in the tone of one who states wiA 
respect a profound and pregnant truth : " Well, it takes 
all kinds of people to make a world." 



THE REFUGEE 

When we had seen her last, just before the war, she 
could have stood for the very type and symbol of the 
intelligent, modem woman ; an energetic leader for good 
in her native town (a bustling industrial center in the 
north of France) ; unsentimental, beneficent; looking at 
life with clear, brightly observant, disillusioned eyes; 
rather quick to laugh at old-fashioned narrowness; a 
little inclined to scoff at too fervently expressed enthusi- 
asms, such as patriotism ; very broad in her sympathies, 
very catholic in her tastes, tolerant as to the beliefs of 
others, radical as to her own, above all, a thoroughgoing 
internationalist; physically in the prime of her life, with 
a splendid, bold vigor in all her movements. 

Now, after less than three years of separation, she sat 
before us, white-haired, gatmt, shabby, her thin face of 
a curious grayish brown which none of us had ever seen 
before, her thin hands tightly clasped, her eyes burning 
and dry-r-the only dry eyes in the room as she talked. 

Much of what she told us I may not repeat, for she 
said, with a quick gesture of terror, dreadful to see in 
one who for forty years had faced life so indomitably : 
"No, no, don't publish what I say— or al \e^s\. \i^ n^x^ 

III 



112 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



careful^ choose only those things that can't hurt the_ 
people who are up there, still in * their ' power." 

" Why not publish what you say? " I asked her^ rath^ 
challengingly. '* I don't think people in general under- 
stand half enough what the life of the invaded provinces 
is. One never sees any really detailed descriptions of it" 

She answered bitterly, "Doesn't the reason for that 
silence occur to you ? " 

" No, it doesn't* I never have understood why so little 
is given to the public about the sufferings of the invaded 
populations/' 

She looked at me strangely, the half-exasperated, half 
patient look one gives to a child who asks a foolish 
ignorant question, and explained wearily; " If those wl 
escape tell what they have seen up there, those who 
left suffer even worse torments. ' They ' have spies 
everywhere, you know ; no, that's not melodramatic non- 
sense, as I would have thought it three years ago, it's a 
literal fact. Very probably that little messenger-boy who 
brought the letter in here a moment ago is one. Very ^ 
probably your baker is one< Anywhere in the worl^H 
whatever is printed about what ' they ' do to our people^ 
in their power is instantly read by some German eyes, 
and is instantly sent to German headquarters in the in- 
vaded regions. And it's the same with our poor^ little, 
persistent attempts to express a little bit of what we fed 
for France. For instance, one of my friends wh 
escaped at the risk of her life told about how we trie 
in our orphan asylum to keep the children mindful of 



THE REFUGEE 113 

France, how after dosing hours, when the doors were 
shut, we took out the French flag from its hiding-place 
and told the children about France and whatever news 
of the war we had managed to hear. That article ap« 
peared, a half-column, in an obscure provincial news- 
paper with no indication as to which town was meant 
In less than two weeks, from German headquarters in 
Brussels, went out a sweeping order to search to the last 
comer of the cellar every orphan asylum in the invaded 
regions. It was two o'clock in the morning when the 
searching squad in our town knocked at the doors. The 
flag was found, and our little collection of patriotic 
French recitations; and before dawn the superintendent, 
a splendid woman of fifty-seven, the salt of the earth, 
had disappeared. She was sent to a prison camp in Ger- 
many. Three months later we heard she was dead. Do 
you understand now why you must not repeat most of 
what I tell you, must give no clue as to how we hide our 
letters, how we get news from France; above all, say 
nothing that could give any idea of who I am? * They ' 
would do such dreadful things to Marguerite and little 
Julien and old Uncle Henri if * they * knew that 1 have 
talked of the life there, of what ' they ' have done to our 
people.*' 

No, until the world turns over and we have awakened 
from the hideous nightmare no one may speak aloud of 
certain matters up there in Belgium and in the invaded 
provinces of France. But there are some things she told 
us which I may pass on to you, and 1 iVvmV. ^ovi oM^pX 



114 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



to know them. I think we all ought to know more thi 
we do of what life is to the people who are awai 
deliverance at our hands. There are certain portions 
her narration, certain detached pictures, brief dialogs 
and scenes, which may be set down in her own wore 
Your imagination must fill in the gaps. 

" The first months were the worst — and the best 
worst because we could not believe at first that war 
there, the stupid, imbecile anachronism we had thoug 
buried with astrology and feudalism. For me it was 1 
an unimaginably huge roller advancing slowly, heavi 
steadily, to crush out our lives. During the day, a$ 
worked with the wounded, I threw all my will power inm 
the effort to disbelieve in that inexorable advance. I 
to myself: * No, it's not possible! They can't have 
vaded Belgium after their promises! Modern peo; 
don't do that sort of thing. No, it's not possible 
Louvain is burned! Wild rumors are always afloat 
such times. I must keep my head and not be credul' 
The Germans are a highly civilized people who woi 
not dream of such infamies as those they are being 
cused of.' All that I said to myself, naively, by day. 
night, every hour, every half -hour, I started up fr 
sleep, drenched in cold sweat, dreaming that the crushiJ 
roller was about to pass over us. Then it came, it passe 
it crushed. 

" But there were other, better things about those fii 
months. For one thing, we had hope still. We hop< 
constBntly for deliverance* Every morning I said to 



to I 



THE REFUGEE 115 

girl who brought the milk, *Are they here yet?' 
'They' meant the French troops coming to deliver 
OS. Yes, at first we expected them from one day to the 
next Then from one week to the next, then from one 
month to the next. Finally, now, we have no strength 
left for anything but silent endurance. Besides that hope, 
which kept us alive those first months, we were not yet 
in that windowless prison which * they * have succeeded 
in making our own country to us. We had news of 
France and of the outside world through the French and 
English prisoners. They were brought into our impro- 
vised hospital to have their wounds dressed before they 
were put on the train to be sent forward to their German 
prisons. As we cared for them we could get news of 
the battles; sometimes we heard through them of the 
men of our families; always they were a link with the 
world outside. We did not know what a priceless boon 
that was. 

" But even this slight contact was soon forbidden us. 
We showed too openly the comfort it brought us. Free 
people, as we had always been, we were not then trained, 
as tjrranny since has trained us, to the wretched arts of 
secrecy. We did too much for those prisoners. The 
people in the streets crowded about them too eagerly, 
showed them too many kindnesses. * They ' decided that 
our one link with the outside world must be broken. 
Fewer and fewer prisoners were sent; finally we saw 
none — for weeks and weeks none at all. We knew noth- 
ing but what ' they ' told us, saw no other wotld, \4^\^ 



it6 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



hypnotized almost into believing that no other worh 
existed 

** The last ones who came through — that is one of ni 
memories. We never knew by what chance they wet 
sent through our town. One day we looked^ and the 
in our street were half a dozen French soldiers^ wi 
bloody heads and anns, limping along between Boc! 
guards on their way to the hospital. All our people r< 
like a great wave and swept towards them. The guar^ 
reversed their rifles and began clubbing with their be 
ends — dubbing the old women who tried to toss food 
the prisoners, clubbing the little children who stretch< 
out handfuls of chocolate^ clubbing the white-haired mc 
who thrust cigarettes into the pockets of the torn, stained 
French uniforms. 

'* We were beginning to practise some of the humilia 
ing arts of a captive people then; we remembered thj 
shouting in the streets is not allowed, that no Frenc 
voice must be heard in that French town, and in all tha 
strainings pressing, yearning crowd there was not 
sound, not even a murmur of joy, when the Boche guar^ 
occasionally relaxed their vigilance for a moment 
some of our presents reached the prisoners. 

" Then they came to the hospital — it was a great mai 
sion before the war — and went limping painfully throu) 
the broad doors and up the long stone staircase, Outsi 
the doors stfiod the military car which was to take thi 
to the station — stood the Boche guards — and the crow 
silent, motionless, waiting for the moment when th< 



THE REFUGEE 117 

soldiers who stood for France should reappear* All 
demonstrations of feeling were forbidden by the in- 
vaders, yes, but there was no demonstration — only a great 
silent crowd waiting. The Boche guards looked about 
them uneasily, but there was no violation of any order 
to report Every one waited silently. Twilight fell, 
darkness fell, the crowd grew larger and larger, filled 
the street, but gave no further sign of life. Not one of 
* their ' rules was broken, but as far as we could see there 
were upturned faces, white in the dusk. An hour passed, 
two hours passed, and then the moment was there. The 
lights flared up in the great hall of the hospital — all the 
lights at once, as if to do justice to a grand fete, an 
^casion of supreme honor. At the top of the stairway, 
cry pale in that great hght, with bandaged heads 
"and arms, appeared those soldiers who stood for 
tFrance, 

'From all that silent, rigidly self -controlled crowd 

it up a sigh like a great stir of the ocean. The pris- 

aers came limping down the stairway. France was 

'passing there before our eyes, perhaps for the last time. 

A thousand handkerchiefs fluttered as silent salute to 

f'rance, a thousand heads were bared to her. The weary 

soldiers stood very erect and returned a silent military 

salute. In their prison car they passed slowly along be- 

feen the dense ranks of their fellow-countrymen, look- 

j deeply, as though they too thought it might be for 

I last time, into those French eyes. Then they were 

oe- We had not broken one of ' their ^ rules — not one. 



Its 



HOME FTRES IN FRANCE 



But * they * never allowed another French soldier to pfl 
through our town, ■ 

" Once after that we had a passing glimpse of EngH 
soldiers, a group of wretchedly ill men, with their wouifl 
uncared for^ stumbling along to the station. They wa 
not taken to the hospital to be cared for ; ' they * fl 
always much harder on the English prisoners than m 
any others. Those were the days early in the war, when 
there were still things to buy in the shops, when we stiH 
had money to spend. How we all rushed to buy good 
chocolate, cigarettes! How desperately we tried ■ 
throw them to the prisoners ! But there was no rela» 
tion, that time, of the guard* Not once did we succeed 
There was a double line of guards that day, and th^ 
held us far, far at a distance with their rifle butts, 
was horrible — the silence of the crowd, rigorously 
serving the rule against demonstrations of any sort; noJ 
a sound except the thud of rifle butts on human fl- 

Old M, B had his arm broken that day. 

" With my hands full of cigarettes and chocolate 
followed them all the way to the station, my heart bor 
ing with pity for the poor men who looked at us witl 
such sick, tired, despairing, hungry eyes. Wc thrcni 
them what we dared. Nothing reached them — ^nothn 
At the station they waited, fainting with fatigue^ ww 
loss of blood, with hunger, with thirst, ringed arow 
with soldiers, bayonets fixed. There we stood, we wor 
[ and children and old men, our hands full of food 
rcomforts — no, you never know how sickeningly 



I 




THE REFUGEE H9 

heart can throb and still go on beating. I had never 
thought I could hate as I did in that hour, a helpless 
q[iectator of that unnecessary cruelty. Since then I have 
had many lessons in how deeply even a modem woman 
can be forced to hate. 

"The train came, the wounded men were driven 
aboard their cattle car. The train disappeared. They 
were gone. I walked home smiling — we never let * them ' 
. 8ce how ' their ' tortures make us suffer. Later Julien, 
my Kttle Julien — ^he was twelve then — found me still 
weeping furiously. He bent over me, his little body all 
tense and fierce. * Don't cry so, auntie ! Don't cry so ! 
It won't last It will soon be over.' 

" That was two years ago. 

V. " None of us Frenchwomen were allowed to st^y long 
|:'m hospital work. For one reason or another, we were 
l.all forbidden to go on caring for the wounded. I had 
jg fte honor of being the very first to be put out of the door. 
n "One of the officers in charge said to me one day, 
• aome four or five months after the beginning, 'Ah, 
[ inadame, we shall soon be good friends now.' 

" The idea made me fall a step backward. * What, 
I monsieur ? What do you mean ? ' 

" ' Yes, France and Germany will soon be friends. I 
[know with absolute certainty that Germany has offered 
a third of Belgium to France and that France is more 
I ttan satisfied to accept and end the war.' 

■* That is always one of the horrors up iVvet^. ' T\v^^^ 



I20 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



I 



can tell you any news they please as ' absolute ccrtaini 
Since we know nothing of what is going on except wto 
they choose to teE us, we have no proofs to fling badti 
them ; no proofs but moral ones^ and * they ' find moR 
proofs ridiculous, of conrse. 

** I stiffened and said, * No, monsieur. No; F\ 
will never do that, never! You cannot understand 
France will never do it, nor why I am sure that she 
will But it is true.* 

" He laughed a little, as you would laugh at a 
impractical notions, and said: *Ohp hut France has Am 
it, madame! You will see the announcement in a fc 
days/ 

^* That cool assumption, my helplessness to refute 
with facts, made me for an instant beside myself* 
said, very hotly: ' Monsieur, if France ever does 
will renounce my French blood, I will make m 
American/ He was still smiling indulgently at my 
* Oh, why, madame ? Why ? * 

" ' Because if France should do that, it would 
much a disgrace for an honest person to be French as 
to be German/ 

" He all but struck me with his whip. 

*^ And five minutes later, still in my nurse's unit 
I was standing in the street, with the door of the 
pital closed behind me, I can't say I was parti 
regretful, either/' 

She looked down at her skirt of threadbare, 
black stuff, ** Do you know where I got this 




THE REFUGEE 121 

After a year of war I had nothing, nothing left in my 
wardrobe. We gave away to the poorer ones every gar- 
ment we could possibly spare. And there was nothing, 
'' nothing left in any of the shops to buy. And I had no 
* money to buy if there had been. How was I going to 
r get an overcoat for Julien and a skirt for myself? The 
r scrubwoman in Uncle Henri's office noticed the patches 
^ and dams on my last skirt, and said the American Com- 
- mittee had some clothes to distribute. I went there — 
jl yes, I — holding out my hand like any beggar. Bless 
y Americans ! There is no shame in being helped by them ! 
■ They gave me there an overcoat that I made over for 
J Julien and enough of this cloth for a skirt. It is the 
only one I have had for two years. Do you know what 
I saw all the time I sat sewing on that charity garment, 
come from so far? Across the street from our house is 

Ae great warehouse where the cloth from the 

woolen mills was stored. All day long German automo- 
bile trucks stood in front of that building, while from 
the windows German soldiers threw down bale after bale 
of cloth. As soon as a truck was full it would start 
forward on its journey to the station, where the cloth- 



was loaded on trains and sent to Germany. An empty 
one immediately took its place. Heavy woolens, light 
woolens, blankets, cashmeres, flannels, serges, twill, black, 
brown, blue, white, figured — ^hundreds and hundreds of 
bales. I never knew there were so many kinds of woolen 
doth. I never had seen so much all together in my life 
as I saw tossed down from the windovis oi ^^\. Vo>ax- 



123 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



story building during those three days. For it took thrtc 
days of incessant work to steal all thai clothe — three long 
days — ^just the time it took me to prepare those two 
charity garments sent from America/* 

She held up a thick, square, brownish cracker, and I 
said : " Look well at that. Yoti have never seen anything 
more important to human lives. That is the free Amer- 
ican biscuit* It is distributed at ten every morning to , 
every school-child, to every teacher, in the region under 
German rule. None have had enough to eat Thcrt 
are no biscuits distributed on Sundays and vacation dayi 
Those are hard days for the children to live throogk 
They beg desperately to go to school, even when they 
are sick, so they may not miss their biscuit. It is bi 
far the best thing they have to eat all day, the 
palatable, the only complete food. The change in th 
school -children since they have had this added to th€ 
diet — it is miraculous! The experts say the biscuits a^ 
a carefully compounded product of many grains, whid 
make it a complete aliment. We know better than that 
It is manna from heaven, 1 

"And here," she held up a red woolen knitted can 
such as American school-children wear in small town 
during the winter. '* Somehow the American Committed 
managed so that there was such a cap for every one m 
us. They have become the national head-dress. Htm 
dreds and hundreds of them — and every one knit m 
America and sent to us. Bless America I I 



THE REFUGEE 



113 



" Our lights ? There was soon, of course, no kerosene 
for us^ no fats to make candles. And you know the long, 
long, dark winters in the north of France? Do you 
know what we did, praying that the American Committee 
would forgive us and realize that blackness is too dreadful 
to people whose nerves are almost worn through ? We 
set aside a part of the lard and bacon the Committee 
provided for us; we melted it, put home-made cotton 
wicks in it, and— chere we had a light, a little glimmering 
taper, but enough to save our reason in the long evenings. 
Bless America ! 

"The schools have kept on, you know; every teacher 
at her post, not a day missed (even when the town was 
bombarded). Every year the examinations have been 
set — they use old examination papers sent from Paris 
before the war — and diplomas have been given. And 
besides that, at home we have tried our best to keep the 
life of our children what the life of French children 
ought to be, I remember last year, during the summer, 
Aunt Louise taught a group of children in our part of 
the town to sing the * Marseillaise.' The studio of my 
cousin Jean is at the back of the house and high up» so 
that she thought the children's voices could not be heard 
from the street. The Mayor heard of what she was 
doing, and sent word that he would like to hear them 
sing. The news spread around rapidly. When he ar- 
rived with the city council, coming in one by one, as 
though merely to make a call, they found the big studio 
full to overflowing with their fellow-citizens — the old 



124 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

men and women who are all the fellow-citizens left there 
There must have been two or three hundred of them, the 
most representative people of the town, all in black, all 
so silent, so old and sad. The children were quite abashed 
by such an audience, and filed up on the little platform 
shyly— our poor, thin, shabby, white-f aped children, fifty 
or sixty of them. 

" There was a pause, the children half afraid to be- 
gin, the rest of us thinking uneasily that we were running 
a great risk. Suppose the children's voices should be 
heard in the street, after all. Suppose the German police 
should enter and find us assembled thus. It would mean 
horrors and miseries for every family represented. The 
Mayor stood near the children to give them the signal to 
begin — and dared not. We were silent, our hearts beat- 
ing fast. 

"Then all at once the littlest ones began in Aeir 
high, sweet treble those words that mean France, that 
mean liberty, that mean life itself to us : 

'' ' Allons, enfants de la Patrie! ' they sang, tilting their 
heads back like little birds; and all the other children 
followed : 

" ' Against us floats the red flag of tyranny! * 

" We were on our feet in an instant. It was the first 
time any of us had heard it sung since — since our men 
marched away. 

" I began to tremble all over, so that I could hardly 
stand. Every one there stared up at the children; every 
one's face was deadly white to his lips. 



THE REFUGEE 125 

"The children sang on — sang the chorus, sang the 
second stanza. 

" When they began the third, ' Sacred love of our 
Fatherland, sustain our avenging arms ! ' the Mayor's old 
Eace grew livid. He whirled about to the audience, his 
ophite hair like a lion's mane, and with a gesture swept 
LIS all into the song. 

" * Liberty, our adored liberty, fight for thy defend- 
ers! ' There were three hundred voices shouting it out^ 
the tears streaming down our cheeks. If a regiment of 
German guards had marched into the room, we would 
not have turned our heads. Nothing could have stopped 
IIS then. We were only a crowd of old men and de- 
fenseless women and children, but we were all that was 
left of France in our French town. 

"Letters? You know 'their* rule is that none are 
allowed, that we may neither write nor receive news from 
our dear ones. But that rule, like all their rules, is broken 
as often as we can. There are numbers of secret letter- 
carriers, who risk their lives to bring and take news. 
But it is horribly risky. If a letter is found on you, you 
are liable to a crushing fine, or, worse yet, to imprison- 
ment, and, if you hc.ve children or old people dependent 
on you, you dare not risk leaving them. You might as 
well cut their throats at once and spare them the long 
suffering. Even if the letter is not found on you, there 
is risk if you try to send or receive one. They are not, 
of course, addressed, so that if the letter-carrier is dis- 
covered all those to whom he is bringing mail may not 



in 



FIRES 



¥RJ 



be incriminated. But if he is caught ^they' alwaj 
threaten him with atrocious punishments which mil ■ 
remitted if he will disclose the names of those who h» 
employed him. Generally the poor letter-carriers afl 
loyal even to death, suffering everything rather than bl 
tray their trust. But some of them are only young bojl 
physically undermined by hardship and insufficient fool 
like all our people, and they have not the physicj 
strength to hold out against days of starvation^ or fiofl 
gings, or exposure — naked — to intense cold* They give 
way, reveal the names of the people who are receiving 
letters^ — and then there are a dozen more homes desolati^ 
a dozen more mothers imprisoned, a dozen more grou 
of children left 

**And yet we all used to get letters before the ruli 
became so terribly strict as at present I have had 
in the three years — just six. They were from my mothfl 
—I could not live without knowing whether my 61 
maiitan was alive or not. Curious, isn't it, to think thi 
I would have been imprisoned at hard labor if any m 
had known that I had received a letter from my 6 
tnother? 

"Of course you must never carry them on you, if 
of doors, for there is always a chance that you may 
searched. On the trolley line between our town and tl 

suburb, , which I used to take once a week to go 

see Pauline when she was so ill, it often happened, T 
car would stop at a sudden cry of ^ Haltef^ and soldie 
with bayonets would herd us into a nearby houai 



THE REFUGEE 127 

Vomen — German women, brought from Germany es- 
ecially for such work — were waiting for us women 
assengers. We were forced to undress entirely, not a 
arment left on our poor humiliated old bodies, and 
irerything was searched, our purses opened, our shoes 
Kamined, our stockings turned inside out. If anything: 
rhich seemed remotely incriminating was found — ^an old 
lipping from a French newspaper, a poem which might 
e considered patriotic — a scrap of a letter, we were taken 
way to prison; if not, we were allowed to dress and go 
tn our way." 

We gazed at her, pale with incredulity. It was 
IS though Americans had heard that such treatment 
lad been accorded Jane Addams or Margaret De- 
and. " Were you ever searched in that way ? " we 
•altered. 

She had an instant of burning impatience with our 
gnorance. " Good Heavens, yes; many and many times ! 
How absolutely little idea you have of what is going on 
ip there under their rule ! That was nothing compared 
:o many, many things they do — their domiciliary visits, 
[or instance. At any hour of the day or night a squad 
3f soldiers knock at your door suddenly, with no warn- 
ing. They search your house from top to bottom, often 
spending three hours over the undertaking. They look 
into every drawer, take down all the clothes from the 
[looks in the closets, look under the carpets, behind the 
bookcases, shake out all the soiled clothes in the laundry 
bag, pull out everything from under the kitchen sink, 



i2e 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 




i 



read every scrap of paper in your drawer and i 

waste-paper basket — -it's incredible. You watch themT 
with perfect stupefaction at the energy and ingenuii 
they put into their shameful business* And what tb 
find as * evidence ' against you! It is as stupefyi: 
They always read every page of the children's schi 
copy-books, for instance, and if they find a * compositioi 
on patriotism, even expressed in the most general terms, 
they tear out those pages and take them away to be filed 
as ' evidence.' 

" You must know that they can and do often en 
for these searching visits at night when every one is 
bed; perhaps you can guess how tensely the mothers of 
young girls endeavor not to offend against the least (M 
* their ' innumerable rules, lest they be sent away inii 
exile and leave their children defenseless. But it is afl 
most impossible to avoid offending against some rule m 
other. Anything serves as ground for accusation^ — a lim 
eral book, a harmless pamphlet found in the bookcasa 
the possession of a copper object forgotten after tn 
summons to give up all copper has gone out, a piece cl 
red, white, and blue ribbon, a copy of the ' Marseillaise/ ■ 
book of patriotic poems; but, above all, the possession M 
anything that serves to point to communication, ever m 
remote, with the outside world. That is the supren 
crime in their eyes. A page of a French or Engli^ 
newspaper is as dangerous to have in the house as I 
stick of dynamite, ■ 

" Many men, women, and young girls are now in i 



THE REFUGEE 12^ 

German prison somewhere for the cririie of having cir- 
culated little pamphlets intended to keep up the courage 
of the inhabitants. These little sheets no longer exist, 
but what exists in spite of all these repressive measures is 
the unshaken faith in our future, the most utter confi- 
dence that the Allies will rescue us out of the hand of 
our enemies." 

What she told us about the deportations I may not re- 
peat for fear of bringing down worse horrors on the 
heads of those she left behind. You may be thankful 
that you have not to read that story. 

Only two incidents am I permitted to transcribe for 
you — ^two incidents which, perhaps, sum up the whole 
vast and unimaginable tragedy. 

" We have tried, you know, to keep the children 
as busy as possible with their studies, so that they would 
not have leisure to brood over what they see and hear 
every day. Tve had little Marguerite go on with her 
English lessons steadily and read as much English as 
possible. One of the books her teacher gave her was 
* Uncle Tom's Cabin.' She looked up from it one day, 
with a pale face, and said, in a sad, wondering voice: 
"Why, auntie, this might have been written about us, 
mightn't it? It tells about things that happen to us all 
the time — ^that we have seen. The men who are flogged 
and starved and killed, the mothers trying in vain to fol- 
low their daughters into captivity, the young girls 
dragged out of their fathers' arms — it's all just like what 
the Germans do to us, isn't it?'" 



130 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



And the other is that last hour at the railway static 
when she stood beside the railway tracks, with her Utl 
Julien beside her (he was fourteen then), and told 
in a fierce, choked voice, " Look, Julien! Look, reme 
ber ! Never forget what you are seeing to-day/' as 
watched the soldiers drive into the cattle cars the 
men, women, and adolescents torn from their hon 
in such haste that they had no change of clothing, 
food, often not even their hats and wraps, " We stc 
there, those who were not ' taken,* the great helplc 
crowd of women and children, agonizing in that dread^ 
Silence which is the last refuge of our poor batter 
htiman dignity up there, I was suffocating, literally 
able to breathe. You do not know what hate and 
and horror you can feel and still live i 

*' The wheels of the train began grindingly to turn, 
train advanced — it could not have been more unendi 
able to us if it had gone over our own bodies, 

**And then some miraculous wind of high-hear 
courage swept through that train-load of weak, dc 
and defenseless human beings* From every crcvi^ 
from every crack, waved a hand, fluttered a handkerchi 
and from the train with one voice, the ' Marseillais 
went up in an indomitable shout. 

^** Allans, enfants de la Patrie/ 



" The sound of the singing and the sound of the tr 
died away in the distance. 



THE REFUGEE 131 

" We did not weep — ^no, we have never shown them 
how they can torture us. Not a tear was shed. 

" But the next day our insane asylum at L was 

filled to overflowing with new cases of madness/' 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 

Between 1620 and 1630 Giles Boardman, an honeft 
sober, well-to-do English master-builder found himsn 
hindered in the exercise of his religion. He piayd 
a great deal and groaned a great deal more (which was 
perhaps the Puritan equivalent of swearing), but in the 
end he left his old home and his prosperous business am 
took his wife and young children the long, difficult, dao 
gerous ocean voyage to the New World. There, to th 
end of his homesick days, he fought a hand-to-hand bat- 
tle with wild nature to wring a living from the 
He died at fifty-four, an exhausted old man, but his las 
words were, " Praise God that I was allowed to 
out of the pit digged for me." 

His family and descendants, condemned irrevocaU 
to an obscure struggle for existence, did little more tta 
keep themselves alive for about a hundred and tWr^ 
years, during which time Giles* spirit slept. 



In 177s one of his great-great-grandsons, 
Boardman by name, learned that the British soldici 
were coming to take by force a stock of gunpowder 
cealed in a bam for the use of the barely begimw"* 
American army. He weilt very white, but he kissed 
wife and little boy good-bye, took down from its p 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 133 

lis musket, and went out to join his neighbors in re- 
pelling the well-disciplined English forces. He lost a 
leg that day and clumped about on a wooden substitute 
all his hard-working life; but, although he was never 
anything more than a poor farmer, he always stood very 
straight with a smile on his plain face whenever the new 
flag of the new country was carried past him on the 
Fourth of July. He died, and his spirit slept. 

In 1854 one of his grandsons, Peter Boardman, had 
managed to pull himself up from the family tradition of 
hard-working poverty, and was a prosperous grocer in 
Lawrence, Massachusetts. The struggle for the posses- 
sion of Kansas between the Slave States and the North 
announced itself. It became known in Massachusetts 
that sufficiently numerous settlements of Northerners 
voting for a Free State would carry the day against 
slavery in the new Territory. For about a month Peter 
Boardman looked very sick and yellow, had repeated 
violent attacks of indigestion, and lost more than fifteen 
pounds. At the end of that time he sold out his grocery 
(at the usual loss when a business is sold out) and took 
his family by the slow, laborious caravan route out to 
the little new, raw settlement on the banks of the Kaw, 
which was called Lawrence for the city in the East 
which so many of its inhabitants had left. Here he 
recovered his health rapidly, and the look of distress left 
his face; indeed, he had a singular expression of secret 
happiness. He was caught by the Quantrell raid and 



134 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



was one of those hiding in the cornfield when Quantrell' 
men rode in and cut them down like rabbits. He die 
there of his wounds. And his spirit slept 



His granddaughter, Ellen, plain, rather sallow, 
serious, was a sort of office manager in the firm 
Walker and Pennypacker, the big wholesale hardw; 
merchants of Marshallton, Kansas. She had pass 
through the public schools, had graduated from the Hig 
School, and had planned to go to the State Universit 
but the death of the uncle who had brought her up aft 
the death of her parents made that plan impossible* 
learned as quickly as possible the trade which would bfii 
in the most money immediately, became a good stenq 
rapher, though never a rapid one, and at eighteen t 
tered the employ of the hardware firm. 

She was still there at twenty-seven, on the day 
August, 1 9 14, when she opened the paper and saw th 
Belgium had been invaded by the Germans. She rel 
with attention what was printed about the treaty 
tion involved, although she found it hard to tmd 
At noon she stopped before tlie desk of Mr. Pi 
packer, the senior member of the firm, for whom she 
a great respect, and asked him if she had made out 
rectly the import of the editorial. '^ Had the Ge 
promised they wouldn't ever go into Belgium in war 

*' Looks that way," said Mr. Penn>T)^cker, noddi 
and searching for a lost paper. The moment after, 
had forgotten the question and the questioner. 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 155 

Ellen had always rather regretted not having been 
able to " go on with her education," and this gave her 
certain little habits of mind which differentiated her 
somewhat from the other stenographers and typewriters 
in the office with her, and from her cousin, with whom 
she shared the small bedroom in Mrs. Wilson's boarding- 
house. For instance, she looked up words in the diction- 
ary when she did not understand them, and she had kept 
all her old schoolbooks on the shelf of the boarding- 
house bedroom. Finding that she had only a dim recol- 
lection of where Belgium was, she took down her old 
geography and located it. This was in the wait for 
lunch, which meal was always late at Mrs. Wilson's. 
The relation between the size of the little country and 
the bulk of Germany made an impression on her. " My ! 
it looks as though they could just make one mouthful of 
it,'' she remarked. " It's awfully little." 
;. .. •' Who ? " asked Maggie. " What ? " 

"Belgium and Germany." 

Maggie was blank for a moment. Then she remem- 
bered. "Oh, the war. Yes, I know. Mr. Went- 
worth's fine sermon was about it yesterday. War is the 
wickedest thing in the world. Anything is better than 
to go killing each other. They ought to settle it by arbi- 
tration. Mr. Wentworth said so." 

"They oughtn't to have done it if they'd promised 
not to," said Ellen. The bell rang for the belated lunch 
and she went down to the dining-room even more se- 
rious than was her habit. 



156 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



I 



She read the paper very closely for the next few daj^ 
and one morning surprised Maggie by the loudness of 
her exclamation as she glanced at the headlines* 

" What's the matter? " asked her cousin. " Have 
found the man who killed that old woman?" She her- 
self was deeply interested in a murder case in Chjcaga 

Ellen did not hear hen " Well, thank goodness! " 
she exclaimed. '' England is going to help France and 
Belgium!'' 

Maggie looked over her shoulder disapprovii] 
'* Oh, I think it's awful ! Another country going to 
England a Christian nation, too ! I don't see how Ch 
tians can go to war. And I don't see what call the 
gians had, anyhow^ to fight Germany, They might hav! 
known they couldn't stand up against such a big com 
try. All the Germans wanted to do was just to w 
along the roads. They wouldn't have done any haiffl 
Mr. Schnitzler was explaining it to me down at 
office," 

" They'd promised they wouldn't/' repeated 
** And the Belgians had promised everybody that 
wouldn*t let anybody go across their land to pick] 
France that way. They kept their promise and the 
mans didn't. It makes me mad! I wish to gooc 
our country would help them 1 " 

Maggie was horrified. ^' Ellen Boardman, would 
want Americans to commit murder? You'd better! 
to church with me next Sunday and hear Mr, Wi 
worth preach one of his fine sermons.'* 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 



137 



Ellen did this, and heard a sermon on passive resist- 
ance as the best answer to violence* She was accus- 
tomed to accepting without question any statement she 
found in a printed book, or what any speaker said in any 
lecture. Also her mind, having been uniquely devoted 
for many years to the problems of office administration, 
moved with more readiness among letter-files and card- 
catalogues of customers than among the abstract ideas 
where now, rather to her dismay, she began to find her 
thoughts centering. More than a week passed after 
hearing that sermon before she said, one night as she was 
brushing her hair; ''About the Belgians— if a robber 
wanted us to let him go through this room so he could 
get into Mrs. Wilson's room and take all her money and 
maybe kill her, would you feel all right just to snuggle 
down in bed and let him? Especially if you had told 
Mrs, Wilson that she needn't ever lock the door that 
leads into our room, because you'd see to it that nobody 
came through?" 

*' Ohj but," said Maggie, " Mr Wentworth says it is 
only the German Government that wanted to invade 
Belgium, that the German soldiers just hated to do it, 
[If you could fight the German Kaiser, it'd be all right." 

Ellen jumped at this admission, " Oh, Mn Went- 
iWorth does think there are some cases where it isn't 
aough just to stand by, and say you don't like it?*' 

Maggie ignored this, *' He says the people who really 
et killed are only the poor soldiers that aren't to 
lame." 



138 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



Ellen stood for a moment by the gas, her hair up nl 
curl-papers, the light full on her plain, serious face, sal- 
low above the crude white of her straight, tinornameotcd 
nightgown. She said, and to her own surprise her voice 
shook as she spoke: "Well, suppose the real robber 
stayed down in the street and only sent up here to rol 
and kill Mrs. Wilson some men who just hated to do 
but were too afraid of him not to. Would you think 
was all right for us to open our door and let them 
through without trying to stop them?'* 

Maggie did not follow this reasoning, but she 
ceived a disagreeable, rather daunting impression f: 
the eyes which looked at her so hard, from the ste: 
quivering voice. She flounced back on her pillow, sa; 
ing impatiently: "I don't know what's got into y 
Ellen Boardman. You look actually queer^ these days 
What do you care so much about the Belgians for? Yc 
never heard of them before all this began! And ever; 
body knows how immoral French people are/' 

Ellen turned out the gas and got into bed silently. 

Maggie felt uncomfortable and aggrieved. The ne: 
time she saw Mr. Wentworth she repeated the conver: 
tion to him. She hoped and expected that the young mil 
ister would immediately furnish her with a cnishil 
argument to lay Ellen low, but instead he was silent f<l 
a moment, and then said : " That's rather an interestii 
illustration, about the burglars going through your rooil 
Where does she get such ideas?" 

Maggie disavowed with some heat any knowledge 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 139 

the source of her cousin's eccentricities. '' I don't know 
where ! She's a stenographer downtown/' 

Mr, Wentworth looked thoughtful and walked away^ 
evidently having forgotten Maggie. 

In the days which followed, the office-manager of the 
wholesale hardware house more and more justified the 
accusation of looking " queer/' It came to be so notice- 
able that one day her employer, Mr, Pennypacker, asked 
her if she didn't feel well " You've been looking sort 
of under the weather," he said. 

She answered, " Fm just sick because the United 
States won't do anything to help Belgium and France/' 

Mr. Pennypacker had never received a more violent 
shock of pure astonishment. *' Great Scotland I" he 
ejaculated, " what's that to yowf 

" Well, I live in the United States,' ' she advanced, as 
though it were an argument 

Mn Pennypacker looked at her hard. It was the 
same plain, serious, rather sallow face he had seen for 
years bent over his typewriter and his letter-files. But 
the eyes were different — anxious, troubled, 

** It makes me sick," she repeated, *' to see a great big 
nation picking on a little one that was only keeping its 
promise/' 

r^ Her employer cast about for a conceivable reason for 
the aberration, ** Any of your folks come here from 
there?" he ventured, 

"Gracious, «o/" cried Ellen, almost as much shocked 
s Maggie would have been at tiie idea that there might 



I40 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



be '* foreigners " in her family. She added : " But you 
don't have to be related to a little boy, do you, to get mad 
at a man that's beating him up, especially if the boy 
hasn't done anything he oughtn't to?" 

Mn Pennypacker stared. '* I don't know that I ever 
looked at it that way/* He added : " I've been so takeo 
up with that lost shipment of nails, to tell the truth, that 
I haven't read much about the wan There's always 
some sort of a war going on over there in Europe, seems 
to me/' He stared for a moment into space, and came 
back with a jerk to the letter he was dictating. 

That evening, over the supper-table, he repeated to 
wife what his stenographer had said. His wife asked, 
" That little sallow Miss Eoardman that never has a word 
to say for herself? " and upon being told that it was the 
same, said wonderingly, " Well, what ever started her 
up, I wonder ? " After a time she said : '' Is Germany so 
much bigger than Belgium as all that ? Pete, go get your 
geography." She and her husband and their High School 
son gazed at the map. " It looks that way," said the 
father. *' Gee ! They must have had their nerve willi 
them! Gimme the paper." He read with care the war- 
news and the editorial which he had skipped in the 
morning, and as he read he looked very grave, and ratlier 
cross. When he laid the paper down he said, impa- 
tiently: "Oh, damn the war! Damn Europe, any- 
how!" His wife took the paper oot of his hand and 
read in her turn the news of the advance into Northern 
France, 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 141 

Just before they fell asleep his wife remarked out of 
the darkness, " Mr. Scheidemann, down at the grocery, 
said to-day the war was because the other nations were 
jealous of Germany/* 

" Well, I don't know," said Mr. Pennypacker heavily, 
" that I'd have any call to take an ax to a man because 
I thought he was jealous of me." 

" That's so," admitted his wife. 

During that autumn Ellen read the papers, and from 
time to time broke her silence and unburdened her mind 
to the people in the boarding-house. They considered 
her unbalanced on the subject. The young reporter on 
the Marshallton Herald liked to lead her on to " get her 
going," as he said — but the others dodged whenever the 
war was mentioned and looked apprehensively in her 
direction. 

The law of association of ideas works, naturally 
enough, in Marshallton, Kansas, quite as much at its 
ease as in any psychological laboratory. In fact Mar- 
shallton was a psychological laboratory with Ellen 
Boardman, an undefined element of transmutation. With- 
out knowing why, scarcely realizing that the little drab 
figure had crossed his field of vision, Mr. Pennypacker 
found the war recurring to his thoughts every time he 
saw her. He did not at all enjoy this, and each time that 
it happened he thrust the disagreeable subject out of his 
mind with impatience. The constant recurrence of the 
necessity for this effort brought upon his usually alert. 



142 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

good-humored face an occasional clouded expression 
like that which darkened his stenographer's eyes. When 
Ellen came into the dining-room of the boarding-house, 
even though she did not say a word, every one there was 
aware of an unpleasant interruption to the habitual, 
pleasant current of their thoughts directed upon their 
own affairs. In self-defense some of the women took 
to knitting polo-caps for Belgian children. With those 
in their hands they could listen, with more reassuring cer- 
tainty that she was " queer," to Miss Boardman's com- 
ments on what she read in the newspaper. Every time 
Mr. Wentworth, preaching one of his excellent, dvic- 
minded sermons on caring for the babies of the poor, 
or organizing a playground for the children of the fac- 
tory workers, or extending the work of the Ladies' 
Guild to neighborhood visits, caught sight of that plain, 
very serious face looking up at him searchingly, expect- 
antly, he wondered if he had been right in announcing 
that he would not speak on the war because it would cer- 
tainly cause dissension among his congregation. 

One day, in the middle of winter, he found Miss 
Boardman waiting for him in the church vestibule after 
every one else had gone. She said, with her usual di- 
rectness : " Mr. Wentworth, do you think the Frendi 
ought to have just let the Germans walk right in and 
take Paris ? Would you let them walk right in and take 
Washington ? " 

The minister was a young man, with a good deal of 
natural heat in his composition, and he found himsdf ft, 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 143 

inswering this bald question with a simplicity as bald: 
' No, I wouldn't*' 

" Well, if they did right, why don't we help them?" 
Ellen's homely, monosyllabic words had a ring of de- 
spairing sincerity. 

Mr. Wentworth dodged them hastily. " We are help- 
ing them. The charitable effort of the United States 
in the war is something astounding. The statistics show 
that we have helped ..." He was going on to repeat 
some statistics of American war-relief just then current, 
when Mr. Scheidemann, the prosperous German grocer, 
a most influential member of the First Congregational 
Oiurch, came back into the vestibule to look for his 
umbrella, which he had forgotten after the service. By 
a reflex action beyond his control, the minister stopped 
talking about the war. He and Miss Boardman had, fori 
just long enough so that he realized it, the appearance 
of people "caught" discussing something they ought 
not to mention. The instant after, when Ellen had 
turned away, he felt the liveliest astonishment and an- 
noyance at having done this. He feared that Miss 
Boardman might have the preposterous notion that he 
was afraid to talk about the war before a German. This 
idea nettled him intolerably. Just before he fell asleep 
that night he had a most disagreeable moment, half 
awake, half asleep, when he himself entertained the pre- 
posterous idea which he had attributed to Miss Board- 
man, It woke him up, broad awake, and very much 
vexed. The little wound he had inflicted on his own 



144 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



vanity smarted. Thereafter at any mention of the 
he straightened his back to a conscious stiffness, and 
raised his voice if a German were within hearing, 
every time he saw that plain, dull face of the steno 
rapher, he winced. 

On the 8th of May, 1915, when Ellen went downj 
breakfast, the boarding-house dining-room was eccite 
Ellen heard the sinking of the LusUania read out aloud 
by the young reporter. To every one's surprise, she added 
nothing to the exclamations of horror with which the 
others greeted the news. She looked very white and left 
the room without touching her breakfast. She went di* 
rectly do^vn to the office and when Mr. Pennypackcr 
came in at nine o'clock she asked him for a leave of ab- 
sence, " maybe three months, maybe more/' depending 
on how long her money held out. She explained that 
she had in the savings-bank five hundred dollars, the en- 
tire savings of a lifetime, which she intended to 
now. 

It was the first time in eleven years that she had ever" 
asked for more than her regular yearly fortnight, but 
Mr. Pennypackcr was not surprised. " You've 
looking awfully run-down lately. I til do you good 
get a real rest. But it won't cost you all thatt Whd 
are you going? To Battle Creek? " 

"Fm not going to rest," said Miss Boardman, 
queer voice, " I'm going to work, in France." 

The first among the clashing and violent ideas wh 
this announcement aroused in Mr. Penn3^packer's mii 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 145 

Piras the instant certainty that she could not have seen 
he morning paper. " Great Scotland — ^not much you're 
lot I This is no time to be taking ocean trips. The sub- 
narines have just got one of the big ocean ships, hun- 
Ireds of women and children drowned." 

" I heard about that," she said, looking at him very 
earnestly, with a dumb emotion struggling in her eyes. 
" That's why I'm going." 

Something about the look in her eyes silenced the 
business man for a moment. He thought uneasily that 
she had certainly gone a little dippy over the war. Then 
he drew a long breath and started in confidently to dis- 
suade her. 

At ten o'clock, informed that if she went she need not 
expect to come back, she went out to the savings-bank, 
drew out her five hundred dollars, went down to the 
station and bought a ticket to Washington, one of Mr. 
Pennypacker's arguments having been the great diffi- 
culty of getting a passport. 

Then she went back to the boarding-house and began 
to pack two-thirds of her things into her trunk, and put 
the other third into her satchel, all she intended to take 
with her. 

At noon Maggie came back from her work, found 
her thus, and burst into shocked and horrified tears. 
At two o'clock Maggie went to find the young reporter, 
and, her eyes swollen, her face between anger and alarm, 
she begged him to come and " talk to Ellen. She's gone 
off her head." 



146 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



The reporter asked what form her mania took* 

" She*s going to France to work for the French an 
Belgians as long as her money holds out . * . all the 
money she*s saved in all her life! " 

The first among the clashing ideas which this awak- 
ened in the reporter's mind was the most heartfelt and 
gorgeous amusement. The idea of that dumb, bac 
%voods, pie- faced stenographer carrying her valuable ser 
ices to the war in Europe seemed to him the richest 
thing that had happened in years! He burst into laugh- ^ 
ten " Yes, sure 111 come and talk to her/' he agre 
He found her lifting a tray into her trunk. ^' See her 
Miss Boardman " he remarked reasonably, " do you 
know what you need? You need a sense of humor! 
You take things too much in dead earnest. The sense 
of humor keeps you from doing ridiculous things, don't 
you know it does ? " 

Ellen faced him, seriously considering this, " Do you 
think all ridiculous things are bad ? '* she asked him^ no 
as an argument, but as a genuine question. 

He evaded this and went on. " Just look at yourse!! 
now , . .just look at what you're planning to do. Here 
is the biggest war in the history of the world; all 
great nations involved; millions and millions of doll| 
being poured out; the United States sending hu 
dreds and thousands of packages and hospital su 
plies by the million; and nurses and doctors and 
knows how many trained people . . , and, k 
who comes here?^ — a stenographer from Walker 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 147 

Pennypacker's, in Marshallton, Kansas, setting out to 
iewar!*' 

Ellen looked long at this picture of herself, and while 
she considered it the young man looked long at her. As 
hie looked, he stopped laughing. She said finally, very 
simply, in a declarative sentence devoid of any but its 
obvious meaning, " No, I can't see that that is so very 
funny/' 

At six o'clock that evening she was boarding the train 
for Washington, her cousin Maggie weeping by her 
side, Mrs. Wilson herself escorting her, very much ex- 
cited by the momentousness of the event taking place 
under her roof, her satchel carried by none other than 
the young reporter, who, oddly enough, was not laughing 
at alL He bought her a box of chocolates and a maga- 
zine, and shook hands with her vigorously as the train 
started to pull out of the station. He heard himself 
saying, " Say, Miss Boardman, if you see anything for 
me to do over there, you might let me know,*' and found 
that he must run to get himself off the train before it 
carried him away from Marshallton altogether. 

A fortnight from that day (passports were not so 
difficult to get in those distant days when war-relief 
work was the eccentricity of only an occasional indi- 
vidual) she was lying in her second-class cabin, as the 
steamer rolled in the Atlantic swells beyond Sandy Hook. 
She was horribly seasick, but her plans were all quite 
clear. Of course she belonged to the Young Women's 
Christian Association in Marshallton, so she knew all 



I 



148 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



about it At Washington she had found shelter at the 
YAV.C-A, quarters. In New York she had done the 
same thing, and when she arrived in Paris (if ^e ever 
did) she could of course go there to stay. Her room- 
mate, a very sophisticated, much-traveled art student, was 
immensely amused by the artlessness of this plan. " IVe 
got the dernier cri in greenhorns in my cabin/' she told 
her group on deck. " She's expecting to find a Y.W.CA 
in Paris!" 

But the wisdom of the simple was justified once more. 
There was a Y.W.C.A. in Paris, run by an energetic, 
well-informed American spinster. Ellen crawled into 
the rather hard bed in the very small room (the cheapest 
offered her) and slept twelve hours at a stretch, utterly 
worn out with the devastating excitement of her first 
travels in a foreign land. Then she rose up, compara- 
tively refreshed, and with her foolish, ignorant simplicity 
inquired where in Paris her services could be of mt 
The energetic woman managing the Y.W.CA, look 
at her very dubiously, 

" Well, there might be something for you over on 
rue Pharaon, number 2y, I hear there* s a bunch of 
ciety dames trying to get tip a vestiaire for refuge 
there/' 

As Ellen noted down the address she said warnin 
her eyes running over Ellen's worn blue serge su 
** They don't pay anything. It's work for volunte 
you know/' 

jElJen was astonished that any one should think of gi 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 149 

ting pay for work done in France. " Oh, gracious, no ! " 
she said, turning away. 

The directress of the Y.W.C.A. murmured to herself : 
" Well, you certainly never can tell by looks! '' 

At the rue Pharaon, number 27, Ellen was motioned 
across a stony gray courtyard littered with wooden 
packing-cases, into an immense, draughty dark room, 
that looked as though it might have been originally the 
coach and harness-room of a big stable. This also was, 
strewed and heaped with packing-cases in indescribable 
confusion, some opened and disgorging innumerable gar- 
ments of all colors and materials, others still tightly 
nailed up. A couple of elderly workmen in blouses were 
opening one of these. Before others knelt or stood dis- 
tracted-looking, elegantly dressed women, their arms full 
of parti-colored bundles, their eyas full of confusion. 
In one comer, on a bench, sat a row of wretchedly poor 
women and white-faced, silent children, the latter shod 
more miserably than the poorest negro child in Marshall- 
ton. Against a packing-case near the entrance leaned a 
beautifully dressed, handsome, middle-aged woman, a 
hammer in one hand. Before her at ease stood a pretty 
girl, the fineness of whose tightly drawn silk stockings, 
the perfection of whose gleaming coiffure, the exquisite 
hang and fit of whose silken dress filled Ellen Boardman 
with awe. In an instant her own stout cotton hose hung 
wrinkled about her ankles, she felt on her neck every 
stringy wisp of her badly dressed hair, the dip of her 
ddrt at the back was a physical discomfort. The older 



150 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



woman was speaking, Ellen could not help overheariil 
She said forcibly : " No, Miss Parton, you will not cos 
in contact with a single heroic poilu here. We ha 
nothing to offer you but hard, uninteresting work for ti 
benefit of ungrateful, uninteresting refugee wonu 
many of whom will try to cheat and get double tin 
share. You will not lay your hand on a single fevefi 
masculine brow < • ," She broke off, made an effc 
for self-control and went on with a resolutely reasonat 
air: "You'd better go out to the hospital at NeiiiB 
You can wear a uniiprm there from the first da 
and be in contact with the men, I wouldn't have bot 
ered you to come here, except that you wrote from E 
troit that you would be willing to do anything^ sct\ 
floors or wash dishes/' I 

The other received all this with the indestructil 
good humor of a girl who knows herself very pretty m 
as well dressed as any one in the world, " I know I di 
Mrs, Putnam," she said, amused at her own absurdtl 
'* But now I'm here Td be too disappointed to go back 
I hadn't been working for the soldiers. All the gi 
expect me to have stories about the work, you kna 
And I can't stay very long, only four months, beeai 
my coming-out party is in October, I guess I will go 
Neuilly, They take you for three months there» f 
know/' She smiled pleasantly, turned with athle 
grace and picked her way among the packing*cases 
to the doon 

EUen advanced in her turn. i 




A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 151 

" Well? " said the middle-aged woman, rather grimly. 
Her intelligent eyes took in relentlessly every detail of 
Ellen's costume and Ellen felt them at their work. 

" I came to see if I couldn't help," said Ellen. 

"Don't you want direct contact with the wounded 
soldiers ? " asked the older woman ironically. 

" No," said Ellen with her habitual simplicity. " I 
virouldn't know how to do anything for them. I'm not a 
nurse." 

" You don't suppose thafs any obstacle ! " ejaculated 
the other woman. * 

*' But I never had aM3;thing to do with sick people," 
said Ellen. " I'm the office-manager of a big hardware 
firm in Kansas." 

Mrs. Putnam gasped like a drowning person coming 
to the surface. "You are!'' she cried. "You don't 
Iiappen to know short-hand, do you ? " 

" Gracious ! of course I know short-hand ! " cried El- 
jien, her astonishment proving her competence. 

Mrs. Putnam laid down her hammer and drew an- 
<^er long breath. " How much time can you give us ? " 
she asked. " Two afternoons a week? Three? " 

"Oh, myt'' said Ellen, "I can give you all my time, 
from eight in the morning till six at night. That's what 
I came for." 

. Mrs, Putnam looked at her a moment as though to as- 
sure herself that she was not dreaming, and then, seizing 
■her by the arm, she propelled her rapidly towards the 
back of the room, and through a small doot mVo ^ ^vcv^ 



aS2 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



little room with two desks in it. Among the heapedfl 
papers on one of these a blond young woman with iifl 
fingers sought wildly something which she did not fiH 
^She said without looking up: *'0h, Aunt Maria, Vw 
just discovered that that shipment of clothes from Louis- 
ville got acknowledged to the people in Seattle! AndJ 
can*t find that letter from the woman in Indianapolis ' 
offered to send diildren^s shirts from her husband's 
tory. You said you laid it on your desk^ last nighty j 
I cannot find it. And do you remember what you 
Mrs. Worthington? Did you say anything about 
shoes?" 

Ellen heard this but dimly, her gaze fixed on the 
fusion of the desks which made her physically diz 
contemplatCp Never had she dreamed that papers, sad 
records of fact, could be so maltreated. In a 
response to the last question of the lovely, distre 
young lady she said : " Why don't you look at the 
bon copy of the letter to Mrs. Worthington ? " 

**Copy!'' cried the young lady, aghast **Wby,j 
don't begin to have time to write the letters omelg 
alone copy them ! *' 

Ellen gazed horrified into an abyss of ignorance wfi 
went beyond her utmost imaginings. She said feeMj 
"If you kept your letters in a letter-file, you would^ 
ever lose them/' 

*' There/' said Mrs. Putnam, in the tone of one 
pectedly upheld in a rather bizarre opinion , " I've 
saying all the time we ought to have a letter-file. 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 153 

s<4o 3roa suppose you could buy one in Paris ? " She spoke 
^biously from the point of view of one who had bought 
-nothing but gloves and laces and old prints in Paris. 

Ellen answered with the certainty of one who had 
found the Y.W.C.A. in Paris : " Fm sure you can. Why, 
Ihcy could not do business a minute without letter-files." 

Mrs- Putnam sank into a chair with a sigh of bewil- 
derment and fatigue, and showed herself to be as truly 
a superior person as she looked by making the following 
q>eech to the newcomer: " The truth is. Miss ..." 

" Boardman," supplied Ellen. 

" Miss Boardman, the fact is that we are trying to do 
something which is beyond us, something we ought never 

- to have undertaken. But we didn't know we were under- 

- taking it, you see. And now that it is begun, it must 
. ; not fail. All the wonderful American good-will which 
fc^-has materialized in that room full of packing-cases must 
e- not be wasted, must get to the people who need it so 
.: direly. It began this way. We had no notion that we 
tf would have so great an affair to direct. My niece and 
% I were living here when the war broke out. Of course 

we gave all our own clothes we could spare and all the 
\ money we could for the refugees. Then we wrote home 
to our American friends. One of my letters was pub- 
lished by chance in a New York paper and copied in a 
number of others. Everybody who happened to know 
I my name" — (Ellen heard afterwards that she was of 

Fthe holy of holies of New England families) — " began 
:^sending me money and boxes of clothmg, IV ^ ^xrvN^^ 



154 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 






so suddenly, so unexpectedly* We had to rent this place 
to put the things in. The refugees came in swarms. We 
found ourselves overwhelmed. It is impossible to find a 
single English-speaking stenographer who is not already 
more than overworked. The only help we get is froi 
volunteers, a good many of them American society girl 
like that one you . . /* she paused to invent a s' 
ciently savage characterization and hesitated to pro- 
nounce it. *' Wei!, most of them are not quite so absurd 
as that. But none of them know any more than we 
about keeping accounts, letters . , ." 

Ellen broke in : " How do you keep your accounts, an; 
how? Bound ledger, or the loose-leaf system? *' 

They stared. *' I have been careful to set down eve: 
thing I could remember in a little note-book/' said M 
Putnam. 

Ellen looked about for a chair and sat down on 
hastily. When she could speak again, after a moment 
silent collecting of her forces she said: ''Well, I gm 
the first thing to do is to get a letter-file, I don*t know 
any French, so I probably couldn't get it If one m 
you could go • , ." I 

The pretty young lady sprang for her hat " PU gfl 
PU go, Auntie." | 

"And,** continued Ellen, "you can't do anything tfl 
you keep copies of your tetters and you can't make copia 
unless you have a typewriter. Don't you suppose ya 
could rent one ? *' 1 

" I'll rent one before I come back/* said Eleanor, wU 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 155 

evidently lacked neither energy nor good-will. She said 
to Mrs. Putnam : " I'm going, instead of you, so that 
you can superintend opening those boxes. They are 
making a most horrible mess of it, I know/' 

"Before a single one is opened, you ought to take 
down the name and address of the sender, and then 
note the contents," said Ellen, speaking with authority.' 
" A card-catalogue would be a good system for keeping 
that record, I should think, with dates of the arrival of 
the cases. And why couldn't you keep track of your 
refugees that way, too? A card for each family, with 
a record on it of the number in the family and of every- 
thing given. You could refer to it in a moment, and 
carry it out to the room where the refugees are re- 
ceived." 

They gazed at her plain, sallow countenance in rapt 
admiration. 

" Eleanor," said Mrs. Putnam, " bring back cards for 
a card-catalogue, hundreds of cards, thousands of cards." 
She addressed Ellen with a respect which did honor to 
her native intelligence. " Miss Boardman, wouldn't you 
better take off your hat? Couldn't you work more at 
your ease? You could hang your things here." With 
one sweep of her white, well-cared- for hand she snatched 
her own Parisian habiliments from the hanger and hook, 
and installed there the Marshallton wraps of Ellen 
Boardman. She set her down in front of the desk ; she 
put in her hands the ridiculous little Russia leather- 
covered note-book of the " accounts "; she opened drawer 



156 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



after drawer CTammed with letters; and with a hafM 
sigh she went out to the room of the packing-casd 
closing the door gently behind her, that she might » 
disturb the high-priestess of business-marLagenient wS 
already bent over those abominably mis-used reconfl 
her eyes gleaming with the sacred fire of system. ■ 

There is practically nothing more to record about tfl 
four months spent by Ellen Boardman as far as hM 
work at the vesHoire was concerned. Every day « 
arrived at number 27 rue Pharaon at eight o'clock ad 
put in a good hour of quiet work before any of W 
more or less irregular volunteer ladies appeared, Sfl 
worked there till noon, returned to the Y.W.CiH 
lunched, was in the office again by one o'dofl 
had another hour of forceful concentration before afl 
of the cosmopolitan great ladies finished their lengthr 
dijeuners, and she stayed there until six in the evening, 
when every one else had gone. She realized that her 
effort must be not only to create a rational system of 
records and accounts and correspondence which she her* 
self could manage, but a fool-proof one which could be 
left in the hands of the elegant ladies who would re 
in Paris after she had returned to Kansas* 

And yet^ not so fool-proof as she had thought at fif 
She was agreeably surprised to find both Mrs, Put 
and her pretty niece perfectly capable of understand]^ 
a system once it was invented, set in working order, 
explained to them. She came to understand that wl 
on her first encounter with them, she had natur 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 157 

enough taken for congenital imbecility, was merely the 
result of an ignorance and an inexperience which re- 
mained to the end astounding to her. Their good-will 
was as great as their native capacity, Eleanor set her- 
self resolutely, if very awkwardly, to learn the use of 
the typewriter, Mrs. Putnam even developed the great- 
est interest in the ingenious methods of corraling and 
marshaling information and facts which were second 
nature to the business-woman. " I never saw anything 
more fascinating!'* she cried the day when Ellen ex- 
plained to her the workings of a system for cross-index- 
ing the card-catalogues of refugees already aided. " How 
do you think of such things?*' 

Ellen did not explain that she generally thought of 
them in the two or three extra hours of work she put in 
every day, while Mrs, Putnam ate elaborate food. 

It soon became apparent that there had been much 
'* repeating *' among the refugees. The number possible 
to clothe grew rapidly, far beyond what the "office 
force *' could manage to investigate. Ellen set her face 
against miscellaneous giving without knowledge of con- 
ditions. She devised a system of visiting inspectors 
which kept track of all the families in their rapidly grow- 
ing list She even made out a sort of time-card for the 
visiting ladies which enabled the office to keep some 
track of what they did, and yet did not ruffle their 
leisure-class dignity . . . and this was really an achieve- 
ment She suggested, made out, and had printed an 
orderly report of what they had done, what money had 



iS8 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



come iiii how it had been spent, what clothes had ben 
given and how distributed, the number of people aidol 
the most pressing needs* This she had put in rv^effl 
letter sent to America. The result was enough to justi^ 
Mrs* Putnam's naive astonishment and admiration of 
her brilliant idea. Packing-cases and checks flowed il 
by every American steamer- I 

Ellen's various accounting systems and card-caUp 
logues responded with elastic ease to the increased vol* 
ume of facts, as she of course expected them to; but Mfi 
Putnam could never be done marveling at the cool c J 
tainty with which all this immense increase was handleC 
She had a shudder as she thought of what would have 
happened if Miss Boardman had not dropped down from 
heaven upon them. Dining out, of an evening, she sp 
much time expatiating on the astonishing virtues of one 
of her volunteers. 

Ellen conceived a considerable regard for Mrs, Put* 
nam, but she did not talk of her in dining out, because 
she never dined anywhere. She left the "office '* at six 
o'clock and proceeded to a nearby bakery where she 
bought four sizable rolls. An apple cart supplied 
couple of apples, and even her ignorance of French 
not too great an obstacle to the purchase of some cakes 
sweet chocolate. With these decently hidden in a smaH 
black hand-bag, she proceeded to the waiting-room oi 
the Gare de VEst where, like any traveler waiting for 
his train she ate her frugal meal; ate as much of it, thai 
is, as a painful tightness in her throat woukl let her. 



ave j 



Wm 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 159 

For the Gare de TEst was where the majority of French 
soldiers took their trains to go back to the front 
after their occasional week's furlough with their fam- 
ilies. 

No words of mine can convey any impression of what 
she saw there. No one who has not seen the Gare de 
TEst night after night can ever imagine the sum of 
stifled human sorrow which filled it thickly, like a 
dreadful incense of pain going up before some cruel 
god. It was there that the mothers, the wives, 
the sweethearts, the sisters, the children brought their 
priceless all and once more laid it on the altar. It was 
there that those horrible silent farewells were said, the 
more unendurable because they were repeated and re- 
peated till human nature reeled under the burden laid 
on it by the will. The great court outside, the noisy 
echoing waiting-room, the inner platform which was the 
uttermost limit for those accompanying the soldiers re- 
turning to hell,-T-they were not only always filled with 
living hearts broken on the wheel, but they were 
thronged with ghosts, ghosts of those whose farewell 
kiss had really been the last, with ghosts of those who 
had watched the dear face out of sight and who were 
never to see it again. Those last straining, wordless em- 
braces, those last, hot, silent kisses, the last touch of the 
little child's hand on the father's cheek which it was 
never to touch again . . . the nightmare place reeked of 
them I 

The stenographer from Kansas had found it as sim- 




L 




HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

pty as she had done everyUiing else* " Which station 
do the families go to say good-bye to their soldiers?'* 
she had asked, explaining apologetically that she thougl 
maybe if she went there too she could help sometim 
there might be a heavy baby to carry, or somebody who 
had lost his ticket, or somebody who hadn't any lunch 
for the train. 

After the first evening spent there, she had shivered 
and wept all night in her bed; but she had gone back the 
next evening, with the money she saved by eating breid 
and apples for her dinner; for of course the sweet 
chocolate was for the soldiers* She sat there, armed 
with nothing but her immense ignorance, her immense 
sympathy. On that second evening she summoned 
enough courage to give some chocolate to an elder! 
shabby soldier, taking the train sadly, quite alone; a 
again to a white-faced young lad accompanied by his 
bent, poorly dressed grandmother* What happened m 
both those cases sent her back to the Y.W.CA. to make 
up laboriously from her little pocket French dictionary 
and to learn by heart this sentence : " I am sorry that 
cannot understand French. I am an American/' Thei 
after the surprised and extremely articulate Gallic gral 
tude which greeted her timid overtures, did not leave 
her so helplessly swamped In confusion. She stammeri 
out her little phrase with a shy, embarrassed smile ai 
withdrew as soon as possible from the hearty hands! 
which was nearly always the substitute offered for 
unintelligible thanks. How many such handshakes si 



led-j 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN i6i 

lad ! Sometimes as she watched her right hand, tapping 
n the typewriter, she thought : " Those hands which it 
las touched, they may be dead now. They were heroes* 
lands," She looked at her own with awe, because it had 
ouched them. 

Once her little phrase brought out an unexpected re- 
ponse from a rough-looking man who sat beside het 
•n the bench waiting for his train, his eyes fixed gloomily 
in his great soldier's shoes. She offered him, shame- 
acedly, a little sewing-kit which she herself had manu- 
actured, a pad of writing-paper and some envelopes. 
Je started, came out of his bitter brooding, looked at 
er astonished, and, as they all did without exception, 
ead in her plain, earnest face what she was. He 
)uched his battered trench helmet in a sketched salute 
nd thanked her. She answered as usual that she was 
Drry she could not understand French, being an Ameri- 
in. To her amazement he answered in fluent English, 
dth an unmistakable New York twang : " Oh, you are, 
re you ? Well, so'm I. Brought up there from the time 
was a kid. But all my folks are French and my wife's 
rench and I couldn't give the old country the go-by 
fhen trouble came." 

In the conversation which followed Ellen learned that 
is wife was expecting their first child in a few weeks 

. . " that's why she didn't come to see me off. She 
aid it would just about kill her to watch me getting on 
lie train . . . and anyhow she's not fit to walk. Maybe 
ou think it's easy to leave her all alone • • . the ^oor 



i62 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

kid ! *' The tears rose frankly to his eyes. He blew his 
nose. 

'* Maybe I could do something for her," suggested 
Ellen, her heart beating fast at the idea. 

" Gee ! Yes ! If you'd go to see her ! She talks a 
little English ! " he cried. He gave her the name and ad- 
dress, and when that poilu went back to the front it was 
Ellen Boardman from Marshallton, Kansas, who walked 
with him to the gate, who shook hands with him, who 
waved him a last salute as he boarded his train. 

The next night she did not go to the station. She 
went to see the wife. The night after that she was sew- 
ing on a baby's wrapper as she sat in the Gare de TEst, 
turning her eyes away in shame from the intolerable 
sorrow of those with families, watching for those occa- 
sional solitary or very poor ones whom alone she ven- 
tured to approach with her timidly proffered tokens of 
sympathy. 

At the Y.W.C.A. opinions varied about her. She was 
patently to every eye respectable to her last drop of pale 
blood. And yet was it quite respectable to go offering 
chocolate and writing-paper to soldiers you'd never seen 
before? Everybody knew what soldiers were! Some 
one finally decided smartly that her hat was a sufficient 
protection. It is true that her hat was not becoming, 
but I do not think it was what saved her from misunder- 
standing. 

She did not always go to the Gare de I'Est every eve- 
ning now. Sometimes she spent them in the little 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 163 

dormer-windowed room where the wife of the New York 
poilu waited for her baby. Several evenings she spent 
chasing elusive information from the American Ambu- 
lance Corps as to exactly the conditions in which a 
young man without money could come to drive an ambu- 
lance in France . . . the young man without money be- 
ing of course the reporter on the Marshallton Herald. 

It chanced to be on one of the evenings when she was 
with the young wife that the need came, that she went 
flying to get the mid-wife. She sat on the stairs out- 
side, after this, till nearly morning, shaken to her soul 
by the cries within. When it was quiet, when the mid- 
wife let her in to see the baby, she took the little new 
citizen of the Republic in her arms, tears of mingled 
thanksgiving and dreadful fear raining down her face, 
because another man-child had been born into the world. 
Would he grow up only to say farewell at the Gare de 
TEst? Oh, she was not sorry that she had come to 
France to help in that war. She understood now, she 
understood. 

It was Ellen who wrote to the father the letter an- 
nouncing the birth of a child which gave him the right 
to another precious short furlough. It was Ellen who 
went down to the Gare de TEst, this time to the joyful 
wait on the muddy street outside the side door from 
which the returning permissionnaires issued forth, caked 
with mud to their eyes. It was Ellen who had never be- 
fore *' been kissed by a man " who was caught in a pair 
of dingy, horizon-blue arms and soundly s^\\3kfcdL ow ^^^ 



i64 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

sallow cheek by the exultant father. It was Ellen who 
was made as much of a godmother as her Protestant 
affiliations permitted . . . and oh, it was Ellen who made 
the fourth at the end of the furlough when (the first 
time the new mother had left her room) they went back 
to the Gare de TEst. At the last it was Ellen who held 
the sleeping baby when the husband took his wife in 
that long, bitter embrace; it was Ellen who was not 
surprised or hurt that he turned away without a word 
to her . . . she understood that ... it was Ellen whose 
arm was around the trembling young wife as they stood, 
their faces pressed against the barrier to see him for the 
last time; it was Ellen who went back with her to the 
silent desolation of the little room, who put the baby 
into the slackly hanging arms, and watched, her eyes 
burning with unshed tears, those arms close about the 
little new inheritor of humanity's woes. . ■.. .. 

Four months from the time she landed in Paris ha 
money was almost gone and she was quitting the city 
with barely enough in her pocket to take her back to 
Marshallton. As simply as she had come to Paris, she 
now went home. She belonged to Marshallton. It was a 
very good thing for Marshallton that she did. 

She gave fifty dollars to the mother of baby Jacques 
(that was why she had so very little left) and she prom- 
ised to send her ten dollars every month as soon as she 
herself should be again a wage-earner. Mrs. Putnam 
and her niece, inconsolable at her loss, went down ta 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 



iliS 



the Gare du Quai d'Orsay to see her off, looking more in 
keeping with the elegant travelers starting for the Midi, 
than Ellen did. Her place, after all, had been at the 
Gare de TEst As they shook hands warmly with her, 
they gave her a beautiful bouquet, the evident cost of 
which stabbed her to the heart. What she could have 
done with that money! 

" You have simply transformed the vestiaire. Miss 
Boardman," said Mrs. Putnam with generous but by 
no means exaggerating ardon " It would certainly have 
sunk under the waves if you hadn't come to the rescue. 
I wish you could have stayed, but thanks to your teach* 
ing we'll be able to manage anything now/' 

After the train had moved off, Mrs. Putnam said to 
her niece in a shocked voice : " Third class ! That long 
trip to Bordeaux! She'll die of fatigue* You don't 
suppose she is going back because she didn't have money 
enough to stay! Why, I would have paid anything to 
keep her." The belated nature of this reflection shows 
that Ellen's teachings had never gone more than skin 
deep and that there was still something lacking in Mrs, 
Putnam's grasp on the realities of contemporary life- 
Ellen was again too horribly seasick to suffer much 
apprehension about submarines. This time she had as 
cabin-mate in the unventilated second-class cabin the 
** companion " of a great lady traveling of course in a 
uite in first-class. This great personage, when informed 
f her satellites' nimble and malicious tongues oi tVV^% 



i66 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



personality and recent errand in France, remarked wil 
authority to the group of people about her at dinin 

embarking upon the game which was the seventh coon 
of the meal: *^ I disapprove wholly of these fooHlH 
American volunteers . , . ignorant, awkward, provincial 
boorSf for the most part, knowing nothing of all the 
exquisite old traditions of France, who thrust themsebcs 
forward. They make America a laughing-stock," 

Luckily, Ellen, pecking feebly at the chilly boiled po- 
tato brought her by an impatient stewardess, could not 
know this characterization. 

She arrived in Marshallton, and was astonished lt> 
find herself a personage. Her departure had made her 
much more a figure in the town life than she had ever 
been when she was still walking its streets. The iy 
after her departure the young reporter had written her 
up in the Herald in a lengthy paragraph, and not a hu- 
morous one either. The Sunday whidi she passed on the 
ocean after she left New York Mr. Wentworth in one 
of his prayers implored the Divine blessing on " one g( 
our number who has left home and safety to fulfil a high 
moral obligation and who even now is risking death b 
the pursuance of her duty as she conceives it." Everj 
one knew that he meant Ellen Boardman, about whom 
they had all read in the Herald, Mr_ Pennypacker took, 
then and there, a decision which inexplicably lighteod 
his heart* Being a good business-man, he did not keep 
it to himself, but allowed it to leak out the next time tki 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 



167 



reporter from the Herald dropped around for chance 
items of news. The reporter made the most of it, and 
Marshallton, already spending much of its time in dis- 
cussing Ellen, read that " Mr. John S. Pennypacker, in 
view of the high humanitarian principles animating Miss 
Boardman in quitting his employ, has decided not to fill 
her position but to keep it open for her on her return 
from her errand of mercy to those in foreign parts 
stricken by the awful war now devastating Europe/' 

Then Ellen's letters began to arrive* mostly to Maggie, 
who read them aloud to the deeply interested boarding- 
house circle. The members of this, basking in reflected 
importance, repeated their contents to every one who 
would listen. In addition the young reporter published 
extracts from them in the Herald, editing them artfully, 
choosing the rare plums of anecdote or description in 
Ellen's arid epistolary style. When her letter to him 
came* he was plunged into despair because she had 
learned that he would have to pay part of his expenses if 
he drove an ambulance on the French front. By that 
time his sense of humor was in such total eclipse that 
lie saw nothing ridiculous in the fact that he could not 
breathe freely another hour in the easy good-cheer of 
his carefree life. He revolved one scheme after an- 
other for getting money; and In the meantime let 
no week go by without giving some news from their 
** heroic fellow-townswoman in France/' Highland 
dngs, the traditional rival and enemy of Marshallton, 
It outraged by tlie tone of proprietorship with vrhkk 



1 68 



HOME HRES TN FRANCE 



Marshallton people bragged of thctr ddegate in Fr 

So it happened dmc when Elloiy fearftiQj tired, it 
fully dusty after the long ride in the day<oacli, and 

jEuUy shabby in exactly the same clothes she had 
iway, stepped wearily ofif the train at the w^^ 
bered little wooden station, she found not only 
to whom she had telegraphed from New York, btitj 
irgc group of other people advancing upon her 

^outstretched hands, crowding around her with more ; 
spectful consideration than she had ever dreamed of ; 
ing addressed to her obscure person. She was too 

deeply moyed to find herself at home again, too i 
[used, to recognize them all Indeed a number of 
cnew her only by her fame since her departure, 
[lade out Maggie, who embraced her, weeping as k 
as when she had gone away; she saw Mrs- Wilson 
kiiscd her very hard and said she was proud to kn 
her; she saw with astonishment that Mn Pennypac 
himself had left business in office hours! He shook 
hand with energy and said: " Well, Miss Boardman, 
glad to see you safe back. We'll be expecting you 
It the old stand just as soon as you've rested up 

Rthe trip/' The intention of the poilu who had taken! 
in his arms and kissed her, had not been more cord 
Ellen knew this and was touched to tears. 

There was the reporter from the Herald^ too, she 
him dimly through the mist before her eyes, as he 
rird the satchel, the same he had carried five mc 
before with the same things in it. And as they 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 169 

her in the "hack" (she had never ridden in the hack 
before) there was Mr. Wentworth, the young minister, 
who leaned through the window and said earnestly : " I 
am counting on you to speak to our people in the church 
parlors. You must tell us about things over there." 

Well, she did speak to them ! She was not the same 
person, you see, she had been before she had spent those 
evenings in the Gare de I'Est. She wanted them to know 
about what she had seen, and because there was no one 
else to tell them, she rose up in her shabby suit and told 
fcfaem herself. The first thing that came into her mind 
as she stood before them, her heart suffocating her, her 
knees shaking tmder her, was the strangeness of seeing 
BO many able-bodied men not in uniform, and so many 
women not in mourning. She told them this as a be- 
ginning and got their startled attention at once, the men 
vaguely uneasy, the women divining with frightened 
sympathy what it meant to see all women in black. 

Then she went on to tell them about the work for the 
refugees . . . not for nothing had she made out the 
card-catalogue accounts of those life-histories. ^* There 
was one old woman we helped . . . she looked some like 
Mrs. Wilson's mother. She had lost three sons and 
two sons-in-law in the war. Both of her daughters, 
widows, had been sent off into Germany to do forced 
labor. One of them had been a music-teacher and the 
other a dressmaker. She had three of the grandchildren 
with her. Two of them had disappeared . . . just lost 



I70 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

somewhere. She didn't have a cent left, the Germans 
had taken everything. She was sixty-seven years old 
and she was earning the children's living by doing scrub- 
woman's work in a slaughter-house. She had been a 
school-teacher when she was young. 

" There were five little children in one family. The 
mother was sort of out of her mind, though the doctors 
said maybe she would get over it They had been under 
shell-fire for five days, and she had seen three members 
of her family die there. After that they wandered 
around in the woods for ten days, living on grass and 
roots. The youngest child died then. The oldest girl 
was only ten years old, but she took care of them all 
somehow and used to get up nights when her mother got 
crazy thinking the shells were falling a^in." 

Ellen spoke badly, awkwardly, haltingly. She told 
nothing which they might not have read, perhaps had 
read in some American magazine. But it was a differ- 
ent matter to hear such stories from the lips of Ellen 
Boardman, born and brought up among them. Ellen 
Boardman had seen those people, and through her eyes 
Marshallton looked aghast and for the first time believed 
that what it saw was real, that such things were happen- 
ing to real men and women like themselves. 

When she began to tell them about the Gare de TEst 
she began helplessly to cry, but she would not stop fcr 
that. She smeared away the tears with her handker- 
chief wadded into a ball, she was obliged to stop fre- 
quently to blow her nose and catch her breath, but shf ' 



A LITTLE KANSAS LEAVEN 171 

had so much to say that she struggled on, saying it in a 
shaking, uncertain voice, quite out of her control. 
Standing there before those well-fed, well-meaning, 
prosperous, safe countrymen of hers, it all rose before 
her with burning vividness, and burningly she strove to 
set it before them. It had all been said far better than 
she said it, eloquently described in many highly paid 
newspaper articles, but it had never before been said so 
that Marshallton understood it. Ellen Boardman, grace- 
less, stammering, inarticulate, yet spoke to them with the 
tongues of men and angels because she spoke, their own 
language. In the very real, very literal and wholly mi- 
raculous sense of the words, she brought the war — 
home — ^to them. 

When she sat down no one applauded. The women 
were pale. Some of them had been crying. The men's 
faces were set and inexpressive. Mr. Wentworth stood 
up and cleared his throat. He said that a young citizen 
of their town (he named him, the young reporter) de- 
sired greatly to go to the French front as an ambulance 
driver, but being obliged to earn his living, he could not 
go unless helped out on his expenses. Miss Board- 
man had been able to get exact information about that. 
Four hundred dollars would keep him at the front for 
a year. He proposed that a contribution should be taken 
up to that end. 

He himself went among them, gathering the contribu- 
tions which were given in silence. While he counted 



172 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

them afterwards, the young reporter, waiting with an 
anxious face, swallowed repeatedly and crossed and un- 
crossed his legs a great many times. Before he had fin- 
ished counting the minister stopped, reached over and 
gave the other yoimg man a handclasp. " I envy you," 
he said. 

He turned to the audience and annotmced that he had 
coimted almost enough for their purpose when he had 
come upon a note from Mr. Pennypacker saying that 
he would make up any deficit. Hence they could ccm- 
sider the matter settled. *'Very soon, therefore, our 
town will again be represented on the French front" 

The audience stirred, drew a long breath, and broke 
into applause. 

Whatever the rest of the Union might decide to do^ 
Marshallton, Kansas, had come into the war. 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 

She woke in the morning to the sound of her alarm 
clock, an instrument of torture which, before the war, 
she had never heard. At once there descended upon her 
two overpowering sensations, one an intense desire to 
stay in bed and rest, the other the realization that she had 
no time to lose if she was to be at her office on time. 
She was up at once, and began making a hasty toilet 
with cold water. It was so hasty that she had 
no time to think, even in passing, of the old days 
when waking up meant ringing for some one to open 
shutters, close windows and bring hot water, breakfast, 
and the mails. By the time she had finished her Spartan 
toilet, her concierge, very sleepy-eyed and frowsy, rang 
at the door and handed in a bowl of cafe au lait and a 
piece of bread, with the morning paper folded across the 
tray. The Directrice sat down in her cheerless dining- 
room and ate her breakfast, reading, eagerly at first, and 
then grimly, the communique of the day. " No advance 
anywhere along the lines ; a few coups-de-main here and 
there — indecisive results/' Another day like all the 
others had begun, a day when hope was forbidden, when 
the only thing left was to endure and do the task at hand. 
For her, personally, there was nothing to fear in the lists 

1/3 



174 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



of the dead, because she had found there, two long 
before, the name which alone gave meaning to her hft 

She put on her hat without looking in the mirror- 
This is a strange action in a Frenchwoman, but the EH* 
rectrice was already preoccupied by the work awaitiog 
her in her office* As she walked rapidly along throu; 
the rain, she was turning over in her mind the possibilitii 
for one of her charges, Philippe, the childlike one w! 
was perfectly willing to sit down there in the comfortabl 
home provided for him and allow himself to be forevi 
supported. It was not. Heaven knows, that our 
rectrice would not have Hked forever and ever to hz 
him supported and cared for Uke any child. But 
had the instinctive grasp on the exigencies of human na^ 
ture which is characteristic of her nationi and she kne 
that if he were to be again a normal human being, 
must be roused to a sense of responsibility for his o 
life, in spite of the dreadful calamity which war 
brought him. But how could he be aroused? He h 
shown no interest in learning how to be a professioni 
knitter; he had only dabbled in clay-modeling; his t 
writing continued indifferent — what could there be whi 
she had not yet tried ? 

Never before, until the war took away not only 
meaning of her life but all her goods, had she kno^ 
what it was to walk at that dismally early hour in tl 
morning through a dismally rainy street. But now she 
was so absorbed with the needs of another that she d 
not at all feel the rain in her face or see the mud on h^ 



9 




EYES FOR THE BLIND 



175 



shoes, and had not even the most passing pang of pity 
for bersdf, losing her youth from one day to another, 
with very little to hope for and, — alas! — nothing left to 
fean 

As she turned into the door of her institution, she had 
an inspiration. The only thing to do for Philippe was to 
turn to account the inimitable charm of his personality, 
since that was about all the equipment he seemed to have. 
Why could not he be a traveling salesman? But how 
r could a blind man be a traveling salesman ? Ah, that was 
the thing for the Directrice to contrive! That was why 
she was there! 



She was, as usual, the first person to arrive at her of- 
fice, although the blind men, just coming out from break- 
fast, were already standing idling about the hall before 
going to their classes, lighting cigarettes and chatting. 
They recognized her quick, light, steady step, and all 
their blind and mutilated faces lit up with welcome. Hers 
also. Although they could not see it, she gave to every 
one the smile, the animated look, the pretty, sideways 
toss of her head, the coquettish poise of her upright little 
figure, which she would have given to him seeing. It 
was strange to see her there, all those blind faces turned 
ards her, and hers irradiating a light and w^armth — 
1, perhaps, they saw it, after all. , * . Then she 
issed them to their work, with peremptory affec- 
n. "Off with you now, boys; don't stand fooling 
mnd here. There isn't a minute to lose, with all you 



176 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



have to do" They nodded, saluted, and dispersed like 
obedient children* 

She went into her office to begin the day's work. TI3 
tight which had transformed her face died out inti 
fatigue, as she sat opening one after another of the 
innumerable letters which lay on her desk^ most of thein 
pitiful, some of them very foolish, all from people who 
were clamoring for hdp. The stenographers came in; 
the professors began to arrive; the telephone bell rang 
tyrannically over and over; one of the men came groping 
his way back from his class to complain fretfully that his 
teacher had treated him with insufficient respect; another 
arrived, his cane tapping in front of him, beaming with 
pride, and held out a perfectly typewritten page to show 
his progress; a third one limped to the door to say he had 
a sore throat, and please would the Directrice take care 
of it herself and not turn him over to the nurse, who did 
not understand him? The minutes passed, — an hour, a 
precious hour was gone, and nothing yet accomplished! 

The telephone rang again, the Directrice was called atid 
received over the wire a communication from a lady who 
announced herself as the Marquise de Rabat-Sigur, fUe 
Elizabeth Watkins, That considerable personage said 
she would like to do something for the war-blind 
(•'everybody in my set has an aveugle de guerre*') and 
on being questioned as to her competence, stated squarely 
that all she could do was to take them out for walks, 
please, if she did, she would like a good-looking oi3 
not one of those with the dreadfully mutilated fac 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 177^ 

The Directrice turned away from the telephone, a hard 
line of scorn at the comer of her lips, her eyes very tired 
md old. She had not as yet been able to attend to any 
Df her letters. 

She now began dictating rapidly the answer to one of 
them when the bare-kneed boy-scout page came hur- 
riedly to say that Pigier, the one who had the bad face- 
wounds, was worse, was in one of his " spells," and the 
nurse could do nothing with him. Blindness always 
comes of course from head-wounds, and head-wounds 
mean the disorganization of all the nervous centers. The 
Directrice left her work and went upstairs into the sick 
man's room and sat down by his bed. The great-shoul- 
dered, massively muscled fellow clutched at her like a 
scared child, and began in a rapid, hysteric whisper to 
tell her of the awful things he saw in his eternity of 
blackness. For he was not really blind, he told her, he 
saw, yes he saw, but only not what was really there . . - 
dreadful things, horrible things, dead men in the trenches 
after an attack, corpses rotting in the rain, artillery 
wagons driving headlong over men only half-dead — he 
told all these visions to her, all, and as he spoke he felt 
them grow faded, harmless, unreal. But she grew pale 
as she listened, and turned rather sick. 

When he had poured out all his terrors and she had 
assured him — ^as she had forty times before — that they 
were all imaginary, just the result of his nerves not be- 
ing settled yet; that as soon as he got back his appetite 
land could take more exercise out of doors, and learn 



178 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ^ 

to roller skate in the gymnasium, he would find they would 
all disappear. Having transferred to her all his horrors, 
he felt himself immensely lightened and comforted. He 
promised her that if she went with him to the gymna^mn, 
he would get up and dress and see if he could learn to 
stand up on the roller skates. She left him, her imagi- 
nation full of new nightmare images to beset her next 
sleepless night, and hurried down to her office again, 
making a hopeful calculation that while he was dressing 
— this is a lengthy process with a newly blinded man- 
she could certainly have time to answer some letters. 

As she entered her office, a pretty young girl, richly 
dressed, with a sweet, child's face, flushed with emotion, 
sprang up, grasped her arm and said, in a trembling 
voice of nervous determination : " Madame, you do not 
know me, but I have come to you at a critical moment in 
my life. I have decided that I will either go into a con- 
vent, or marry a blind man. I have plenty of money, I 
can support a blind man." At the expression which came 
into the face of the Directrice, her voice rose hysteri- 
cally. " Don't laugh at me ! Don't try to dissuade mc 
I detest the life at home. My family do not understand 
me. I have run away from home this morning to tcfl 
you this. My decision is irrevocable." 

The Directrice, feeling herself a thousand years old in 
worldly wisdom, summoned all her patience and sat down 
to tell her what she had told all the other pretty, child- 
faced young ladies who had come with such fixed deter- 
mination. She said clearly and firmly that it was notj 



i 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 179 

to be thought of; that her visitor was far too young to 
make any such decision; that it would be unfair to any 
blind man to put him in a position where he would cer- 
tainly soon feel himself a terrible drag on a young life; 
that she would not go into a convent, either, but would 
stay at home with her parents, like a sensible girl, until 
she married a man like herself. These were the words 
she pronounced, very simple, common-sense, conversa- 
tional words, which would have had no effect in any one's 
else mouth. But what she was spoke more loudly than 
what she said. The Directrice did not wear the black 
and penitential garb of a Mother Superior, but she had 
acquired, through intensive experience, all of a Mother 
Superior's firm, penetrating authority and calm manner. 
Not a trace of the amused scorn she felt for the silly 
^hild penetrated to the surface of her quiet manner. In 
ten minutes, the girl was crying, quite relieved that her 
visit had come to nothing, and the Directrice was calling 
for a cab to take her home. She herself put the weeping 
child into the carriage, and stood looking after it with a 
tolerant smile on her firm lips. " Was I ever as young as 
that?" she asked herself as she went back to her office. 
As she turned again to the letter from the important 
members of the American colony who wanted to be put 
on the Governing Committee of the institution because 
of the other distinguished names there, her blind man, 
the one who had had the horrors, appeared at the door, 
dressed, still animated with the new energy given him 
by his Directrice, and held out his hand to her. She 



i8o 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



jumped up laughing — how could she manage that laugh! 
— and told him he looked as though he were leading her 
out to dance. By this device she managed so that, while 
in reality leading him, he seemed to be leading her dowa 
the steps and across the courtyard, to the gymnasium. 

While the instructor put on his roller skates and he 
started on his first rounds she stay^, her face 
a-sparkle with fun and interest, catling out joking encou 
agcments to him, and making such merry fun of 
awkwardness that he laughed back at her. One qu 
forgot for the moment that he had not only no 
but very little face left 

Then, seeing him well started, already taking an inte 
est in the new sport, she turned back across the cou 
yard. Now that it was no longer needed, the sparkle 
and animation had all gone from her face again. She 
looked very old and tired, and cross and severe; and one 
of the volunteer teachers (a wealthy woman, coming 
to give a half -hour of English in the intervals of 
shopping and dressmaking expeditions) thought what a^ 
disagreeable-looking woman the Directrice was. 

Then, for half an hour, she was, by some extraor 
nary chance, left uninterrupted in her office, and 
fated rapidly the answers to her morning mail In ord 
to accomplish as much as possible in this unheard-of 
period of quiet, she became a sort of living flame of 
tention. The real meaning of each letter w^as sucked 
of it by a moment's intense scrutiny. She had but a 
ment, in each case, to make the decision, sometimesi 



EYES FOR THE BLIND i8i 

'-ery important one. The wealthy American lady who 
vanted to be on the Committee was referred vaguely to 
some far-distant authority, who would in turn refer 
ler to some one else, and so put her off without offending 
ler; because if it is possible, wealthy people, no matter 
low preposterous or self-seeking, must not be offended. 
The money which Providence has so curiously placed in 
their hands means too much to the needy charges in the 
are of the Directrice. She who, before the earthquake 
changes in her life, had been so scornful of self-seeking 
and pretentiousness, had now learnt a hundred adroit 
ways of setting those evil forces to turn the wheels of 
her mill. This was the part of her work she hated the 
most. • • • 

Another letter was from a blinded soldier in one of the 
hospitals, sent by one of his friends, since the authorities 
of the hospital would not permit him to write. He 
wanted to come to the Directrice's institution, and a 
clique in the hospital, who were jealous of it, were com- 
bining in a thousand subterranean ways to prevent his 
going there. It is very easy for two or three seeing 
people to circumvent a blind man. The Directrice did 
not answer this letter — she put it aside with a bright 
Hgjit of battle in her eyes and a slightly distended nostril. 

Four begging letters from people who had no claim 
on her or the institution; two from inventors — one of 
whom had quite simply discovered the secret of perpetual 
motion, which, he thought, would be of especial benefit 
Jo blind people, — the other had invented a typewriter 



i82 ^ HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

wonderfully adapted for the blind, a detailed descriptioo 
of which he forwarded. In her lightning survey the 
Directrice perceived that the machine weighed seventy 
pounds, threw the letter violently in the waste-paper 
basket, and turned to the next. Over this one she lin- 
gered a moment, her face softening again. It was from 
one of her graduates, who had come into the institution 
with the horrors, who had clung to her like a dead weight 
for the first month of his stay, but who, before the end 
of his six months' sojourn there, had become perfect 
master of the knitting machine. Just before leaving, he 
had married the nurse who had taken care of him in the 
hospital, the Directrice being, of course, chief witness 
at the wedding. And now, after a year, he wrote her to 
make a report They earned their living well, he and 
his wife, he had bought three other knitting machines and 
had a little workroom in his house, where he, his wife 
and two employees carried on a lucrative business; that 
is, his wife did until the arrival of a baby — such a 
healthy, hearty little boy whom they had called Victor, 
because the Directrice's name is Victorine; and please, 
will she be his godmother? . . . Yes, there are good; 
moments in the life of the Directrice, moments whes] 
there is no mask on her face, either of courageous sniil* j 
ing or of bitter fatigue; when she is, for just a moment,] 
a very happy woman, happy in a curious, impersonal j 
way which was as little within her capacities before i 
war as all the rest of her laborious, surcharged life. 
And then, somehow, it was lunch time. Where 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 183 

be morning gone? She must needs go in now and 
it down at one of the long tables, looking up and down 
1^ line of blind faces, watching the fumbling hands try- 
ng so hard to learn the lesson of self-reliance in the new 
ilackness. She had acquired an almost automatic 
lexterity in turning a cup so that the handle will be in 
ihe right place for the groping hand, in cutting up a 
norsel of meat on the plate of the man beside her, while 
sngaging him in lively conversation so that he shall not 
K>tice it, in slipping the glass under the water carafe 
prhich is being awkwardly tilted by one of those dreadful 
learching hands. Through some last prodigy of dexter- 
ity she ate her own lunch while she did this. There were 
four of the long tables, and every day she must sit at a 
different one, or the others will be jealous. 

After lunch she stood for a few minutes in the big 
ball, laughing and talking with the men, helping them 
fight their cigarettes, listening to their complaints 
or their accounts of the triumphs of the morning. As 
she went back into her office, she saw that one of them 
was following her, and her experienced eye saw by his 
■hamUing gait, by the listless way in which he handled 
his little bamboo cane, by every slack line of his body, 
what the trouble was. He had the '^ cafard '' — ^the blues 
— ^md nobody could do anything for him but the Di- 
irectrice. She was very tired herself, and for just a 
tooment she reflected that if she had an instant's time, 
die would probably have the worst fit of " cafard " ever 
known to man. But she had not an instant's time, so, 



l84 



HOME FIRES IN fZASCE 



to mole tbe dood on his iaccp sbc | 
cpGi the dnmer where she always kept womt 

I agrifist these evil boars. Tbb tiDie H was ; 

' tion for writing Bmllk bj hand She told ber ' 
oaire *' that she was so glad be happened to conie. I 
cause she had been wantiiig his opinioa on the 
ity of this, ** Sec, it is tetefided to be used thus," 
put it in his bands, — ** and the Ihtie bar is made of : 
and stjcfa an alloy instead of the alimmtmn that is 
ally used, with siich and siidi claimed benefits." 
thinkt now, diat it would be better than the standaid \ 
they were using^ and what did he think about the ad 
ability of giving the inventor a chance to make a 
samples? With that she was launched upon a history j 
the inventor's lifej what a hard time he had had* 
eager he was to do something for the blind, and 
wondered if perhaps her blind men there would be 
ing to give him an interview. The invoitor woidd i 
iider it such an honor. But in the meantime, of 
let him took carefully at the litdc invention, so 
can have the best judgment possible to give the im 
The we&t wind of this new interest in another's life, 
new importance for himself, blew away visibly bef 
her eyes the black clouds of disheartenmenL Her 
man was only a boy, after all He took the little Br 
plaque under his arm and, tapping briskly before 
felt his way to the door, saying, over his shoulder! 
portantly, that he would try to find half an hour's 
to give the inventor, although his days were really 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 185 

amcb occupied. The Directrice looked after him with 
^pecoktive eyes. " Now I have used up that device, 
Brhat shall I do for the next one? *' 

Suddenly she realized that this was the visiting hour 
for the hospital where the blind man was being held in 
durance by the little plot against him. The fighting light 
came into her eyes again, she clapped on her hat — you 
ynll note it is the second time this day she has put on her 
liat without looking at herself in the glass — ^and swept 
out to do combat, all her firm, small, erect person ani- 
mated by the same joy in battle which had sent her 
crusading forefathers into the fight singing and tossing 
tiieir swords up into the air. She was gone an hour and 
a half, and when she came back, although she looked sev- 
eral degrees more tired even than before, a grim satis- 
faction sat upon her hard, small mouth. She had won 
her point. The blind man was to be allowed to come. 

But there was Philippe, the man with whom she had 
begun the day. By looking out of the window, she could 
see him idling, as usual, in the garden, ostensibly taking 
a lesson in English from a volunteer professor, and in 
reality doing his best mildly to flirt with her. The Di- 
rectrice frowned and smiled at the same time. What an 
absurd, lovable fellow he was! Thank Heaven, there 
was one of her " pensionnaires " whom it was impossible 
to take tragically. She gave a few orders for the dis- 
position of the office work, wondered when she would 
' ever have time really to go over her accounts thoroughly, 
' and went out again to interview the head of a big whole- 



1 86 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



sale groceries firm. In the old days, when she and n 
lived in a chateau, they bought en gros their supptil 
from this firm, and the head of it still had a respectSi 
attention for any one of her name. This time she looJ 
at herself when she put on her hat, looked very intentH 
rearranged her hair, noticed with impatience, quite im- 
personally» that the gray was beginning to show more 
every day, put on a little touch of powder and bit her liaJ 
to make them red. Then she took a fresh pair of glovM 
and put on a crisp veil. Thus accoutered, looking inimi- 
tably chic, the grande dame entirely in spite of her ftw 
inches, she went forth to triumph. After a long con- 
versation with the big grocer, she extracted from him t 
promise to try Philippe as a traveling salesman. Sk^ 
felt very young and almost gay, as she brought had 
this news. ** If Philippe cannot sell anything to any- 
body, whether he wants it or not, I am much mistaken," 
she thought, watching him out of the window^ wheedle 
a would-be stern professor of typewriting into lounginf 
there instead of going back for the lesson. Somehow, ill 
the intervals of this day, which you will see to have beot 
reasonably full, she had worked out aU the details with 
what device in Braille Philippe could take down his or- 
ders, what kind of a typewriter he could carry about 
him to copy them, how he could be met at the statiofi bf 
such a volunteer to settle him in his hotel, and at tlie 
other station by another — our Directrice had a netwofk 
of acquaintances all over France. Philippe came strait 
ing into the room, very handsome, showing only by the 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 187 

luunoving brightness of his clear dark eyes that he was 
Uind. " See here, Philippe," she said, pulling him into a 
chair beside her as though he were a child. 

" Yes, yes." Philippe agreed to the new plan. '' There 
is something really sensible ! That's a life that amounts 
to something! That is something that a man can do and 
take an interest in ! Thank Heaven, I never need to take 
another English lesson as long as I live. I will go at 
once and work hard at my typewriter ! How soon before 
I can begin? You know that I am engaged. I must 
earn enough to be married as soon as possible." Yes, 
she knew, although she knew also that it was the third 
time that Philippe had been engaged to be married since 
he was blinded! She reflected how curiously little a 
temperament like his is changed by any outward event. 

Just at this moment of amused relaxation, when the 
TDirectrice was looking young and carefree, she glanced 
out of her window and saw a very handsomely dressed, 
tall woman descend from a very handsome limousine 
and make ready to enter. Have I said that our Directrice 
can look very cross and tired ? She can also look terri- 
fying, in spite of her small stature. 

She went rapidly down the steps and across the court- 
yard, giving the impression of a very much determined 
mother-hen bristling in every feather to defend her 
brood. On her side, the woman who came to meet her 
gave the impression of a hawk, with a thin, white face, 
whitened to pallor by powder, and with shallow, black 
fyes. 



^P HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ] 

** Madame/' said the Directrice, " you are not to enti 
here to-day, nor any other day-" I 

" You have no right to keep me out/* said the other, 1 

The Directrice did not deny this; but she repeatfl 
sternly : ** You are not to enter here, nor to see Aygn 
Leveau anywhere at all. He has a wife and two dij 
dren. He is not only blind, but as weak as water. Bl 
I am not. You are not to enter/' j 

The woman in the sables broke out into a stoflj 
of vulgar language, at which the Directrice adv^icfll 
upon her with so threatening an air that she Iiterai| 
turned tail and ran back to her car, although she wl 
shouting over her shoulder as she fled. The small, cre( 
figure stood tense and straight like a sentr>' on gTHi 
until the car moved away, the occupant shouting out i 
the window the direst threats of revenge. 1 

A gleaming car came up from another direction, all 
another handsomely dressed woman descended ^ greeliB 
the Directrice in an affectionate, confidential maoni 
She said ; "Oh, my dear, I am so glad to find you bell 
I always come to you, you know, when I am in diffici^ 
ties ! What would happen to me without your good l^ 
vice! A friend of mine from the provinces, an enginof 
by profession, wants so much to come and see jtii 
weaving workroom^ because he is interested in machmq 
and thinks perhaps he may do something for the bill 
in that part of France — not here^ you know, not dl 
slightest idea of stealing your ideas and duplicating yok 
work here, When will you allow us to comep when I 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 189 

can really look at the machinery without bothering the 
men ? " That was what she said, but this was what the 
Directrice understood very distinctly : " My search for 
the Legion d'Honneur is getting on famously. If I can 
cmly just add a weaving-room to my outfit before the 
Minister of the Interior comes for his visit, I am sure 
m get the red ribbon, and then I won't have to bother 
any more about these tiresome war-blind." 

The Directrice answered guardedly: " Why, yes; come 
into my office, and I will see what will be the best time." 

As she walked across the courtyard with her visitor, 
chatting about the difficulties of war-time housekeeping 
in Paris, she was thinking: ** Yes, she only wants it to 
inake a temporary show in order to get the Legion of 
Honor. But what of that ! Let her have it. But if she 
opens a weaving-room, she must have blind there to op- 
crate the looms, and if she takes them up only to drop 
them, what will become of them? Let me see what I can 
do about that. Perhaps this is the way to get her to pay 
for the installation of a new weaving-room. As soon as 
she gets what she wants out of it, we could perhaps take 
it over and add the men to the number we care for here. 
I wonder if the American Committee would be willing 
to send more money for that. Yes, it's worth taking 
the risk." 

But nothing of this elaborate calculation appeared in 
her smooth, affable manner as, having come to her de- 
cision, she announced, after gravely looking through a 
card catalogue, that Thursday afternoon at a certain hour 



igo 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



would be the best time to see the looms, " And if yol 
don't mind, Mrs, Wangton," she said, " I am just goijfl 
to treat you like an old friend of the institution and ifl 
you and your engineer wander about at your pleasml 
without anybody bothering to escort you." That wfl 
what she said. What she thought was : " There, that ifffl 
give them a chance to steal the names of the makers and 
the dimensions of the looms as much as they pleast," 

Her visitor confounded herself in effusive expressioni 
of gratitude and friendliness, which the Directrict re- 
ceived with a smile. She went away, sweeping her vehtt 
gown over the stone steps and looking down with antid* 
patory eyes on that spot of her well-filled bosom where 
she hoped to pin the coveted red ribbon. The Directricc 
let her go with almost an audible sniff of contempt, and 
turned again to work. 

This time it was a plan to be worked out whereby 6e 
blind could learn certain phases of the pottery trade at 
Sevres. It involved a number of formalities and ad* 
ministratlve difficulties which only one who has been in I 
contact with French bureaucratic methods can faintly ' 
imagine. Our Directrice plunged into it headlong, and 
did not stir from her desk until she saw with a stort 
that it was dinner time. And she had not yet lookcft 
over her accounts^ the complicated accounts of a big, 
expensive! many-arteried institution. However, loo| [ 
ago» all her friends had stopped asking her to go to din- 
ner or to go to hear music. They had learned that she 
rarely spent the evening in any other way than fieishiogj 






EYES FOR THE BLIND 191 

up what work she had not found time to do during the 
day. She was assured of several hours more of quiet. 

She went out to dinner (one meal a day in the com- 
pany of many mutilated and blinded men is as much as 
one woman can stand) and had a solitary meal in a quiet 
restaurant, turning her glass about meditatively between 
the courses and wondering if she dared ask enough from 
the philanthropic American manufacturer to settle Benoit 
in the country. With his tendency to tuberculosis, that 
was the only safe life for him and his family. She made 
a mental calculation of what his pension would come to, 
and how much he could earn by his trade. Then, if he 
kept chickens, and a garden, and rabbits, and if he could 
get a house for six thousand francs ... by the time 
she had finished her dinner she had thought out a p^an 
and a definite and businesslike proposition to put to the 
well-disposed American. Out of the depth of her ex- 
perience with philanthropic people, she said to herself 
as she walked out : " I think I'd better tell him that we 
will put a bronze plaque on the house announcing that it 
is his gift to one of the war-blind. That ought to settle 
him." 

At her office the evening passed very rapidly, between 
her account books and the sauntering in and out of one 
and another of the blind men. At ten o'clock, tired to 
the marrow of her bones, she stood up, dreading the ef- 
fort to get home and get to bed, and yet looking forward 
to sleep as the one certain blessing of life. As she went 
out of the door she saw two shadowy forms standing in 



192 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

the summer starlight, and recognized two of her charges. 
" Come, come, children," she said; " it is bedtime. You 
must get to bed and sleep and get back your strength." 

" But we can't sleep," one of them told her. " We go 
to bed and lie awake and get the ' cafard ' worse and 
worse." The other one suggested timidly : " We thought 
that perhaps, before you went home, you might take us 
for a little turn about the lake in the park ? " Our Direc- 
trice accomplished the last violent action of her violent 
day. There was not an instant's hesitation before she 
said cordially: "That's an excellent idea! Just what I 
would like to do myself. One always sleeps so much bet- 
ter for a bit of a walk in the fresh air." 

Taking one on one arm and the other on the other, 
she set off, the two men towering above her little upright 
figure. At first they talked as they strolled beside the 
little lake. Then, as the Directrice had hoped, the en- 
chantment of the hot, still night fell on them all. The 
men walked silently, breathing in the good smell of the 
stirred earth and watered paths. Their blind eyes looked 
steadily into the blackness, no blacker than their every 
day; their scarred, disfigured faces were hidden by the 
darkness. 

The Directrice looked up at the stars, and, for the first 
time in all that long day, thought for an instant of her- 
self. The night brought to her a sudden stabbing recol- 
lection of another night, before the war, before the end 
of the world, when the starlight had fallen white on tlfe 
clear road leading her straight and sure to her heart's 



EYES FOR THE BLIND 193 

desire. The road before her feet now seemed as black 
as that before her blind men. But she stepped out 
bravely and held her head high. 

The blind men leaned on her more and more. She 
could feel by the touch of their hands on her arms, that 
they were relaxing, that the softness of the night air 
had undone the bitter tension of their nerves. Now was 
the time to take them back. Now they would sleep well. 

" Come, my friends," she said, and led them back to 
their door, through which, the next morning, she would 
enter early to another such day as the one she had just 
passed. And after that another, and then another. . . . 

In her bed, that hot night, in the stuffy little Paris 
bedroom, she was quite too tired to sleep, and so, knit- 
ting her forehead in the blackness, she wondered how she 
could best place Brousseau, he who had a weak heart, 
and three little children dependent on him. 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 



The little newspaper in his home town put the mat 
thus : " Our young fellow-citizen Louis Vassard has rcf^ 
turned from the hospital to his home. He received a bad 
hf*ad-wound in tlie battle of Verdun and unfortunately 
has lost his eyesight/' 

Of course the family meant to keep from him th 
casual method of annotincing the end of his world, as i 
meant to keep everything from the newly blinded man, 
but he overheard the item being read aloud in the kitchen, 
and took a savage pleasure in its curt brevity. He like 
it better, he told himself disdainfully, than the ** s} 
pathy '^ which had surrounded him since his return home 
He cast about for an adjective hateful enough, and found 
it: ''snivelling sympathy "^ — that was the word. He re- 
joiced in its ugliness, aU his old sensitive responsivene 
curdled into rage. 

The hospital had been hell, nothing less, intolerab 
physical agony constantly renewed; and of course hon 
where he was petted and made much of and treated liii 
a sick child, home was not hell* but sickened and 
bittered, resenting with a silent ferocity the commisera- 
tions of those about him, he felt sometimes that hell was 
the better place of the two. 

The most galling of all his new humiliations was 

194 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 195 

he was never allowed to be alone. His ears, sharpened 
like all his other senses by the loss of his sight, heard 
the silly whispering voices at the door. " I can't stay 
any longer,** whispered his aunt, who for an hour had 
been stupefying him with her dreary gabble ; " come, it's 
your turn," and he heard the dragging step of his old 
cousin advancing with a stifled sigh to do his duty by 
their martyred hero. Or it was the light irregular step 
of his little sister, irritated at being forced to do what 
would have been a pleasure if she had been left free. 

He dared not protest against this as hotly as he felt, 
because, his self-control hanging by a thread, he knew 
that if he let himself go at any point he would be lost, 
would be raving and shrieking to be killed like the man 
in the bed next him at the hospital. He swallowed down 
his rage and his humiliation and only said coldly : " You 
don't need to mount guard on me like that, all the time. 
Pm blind, I know, but I'm not an imbecile . . . yet ! " 
He shocked them by his brutal, outspoken use of the 
word, and they drove him frantic by beating about the 
bush to avoid it, always saying to others that he "had 
had a bad head-wound and his eyes were affected." He 
said once sternly : " Why should you think I'm ashamed 
to hear the word? You don't suppose it's any doings 
of mine, being blind ! " 

But no matter how brusquely or roughly he spoke he 
could never anger them. He felt often and often that 
if only he could hurt them, startle them into irritability, 
he would be relieved. But they never varied from the 



196 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



condescending amiability one shows to children and sick 
people. He sickened and shivered at the thought of the 
glances of pitying comprehension with which they prob* 
ably accompanied those never-varying soft answers. 

And always they stayed with himt Even when for a 
few moments they pretended to go away and leave him. 
he heard the breathing and the imperceptible stirrings 
of some one left on guard* Or he imagined that he 
heard them, and scorned to grope his way to see. In- 
stead he sat motionless^ his mask of pride grimmer and 
harder than ever. 

Next after their always being there, he hated thei 
efforts to cheer him up. That had been the phrase of iM 
doctor at the hospital, when they went there to take 
him away : " Now he must be cheered up- He mtistfl't 
be left to brood. He needs cheerful company about 
him/' Of course there was his mother . , . and h| 
was so young that only a few years of intense grow™ 
separated him from the time when he ran to his mother 
for consolation* Certainly his mother could not be J 
cused of attempting too much to cheer him up, the poor 
mother who, try as she might, had not yet mastered 
herself so that she could command her voice when sh| 
looked into the tragic sightless face of her son. HiraM 
poised on the brink of hysteria, he dreaded more tfaa 
anything in the world the sound of that break in hf 
mother^s voice. Oh yes, he realized it perfectly, it wai 
not their fault, it was not that they did the wrong thin J 
it was only that he hated everything they did, if tha 



beV 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 197 

spoke cheerfully or wept, were silent or laughed. He 
was like a man all one raw sore, to whom every touch 
is torture. 

He often woke up in the morning feeling that he could 
not go on another day, that he could not. . . . Every 
one about him commented on his remarkable quiet. " He 
never complains, he talks about all kinds of things, he 
has the newspaper read to him every morning," they 
reported to visitors. They did not see the sweat on his 
forehead as he listened. 

One day they had taken him out of doors, on the 
bench at the end of the garden. It was his little sister's 
turn to " be with poor Louis," the little sister who would 
have been so unconsciously droll and diverting if she 
could have been natural. He said to her : " Oh, go and 
play, Celia ! Why don't you bring your hoop out here ? 
Or your jumping-rope ? " But the conscientious, sensi- 
tive child, drugged by the thick fumes of self-sacrifice 
which filled the house, was incapable of being herself. 
She sat on the bench beside her big brother, holding his 
hand, talking affectedly, with an artificial vivacity, in as 
close an imitation as possible of her elders. The man 
to whom she chattered, winced, shrugged his shoulders, 
and fell into a morose silence. 

But Celia, after all, was only eight years old, and at 
that age honest human nature is hard to stifle. Over 
across the road in the meadow was Jacques with his new 
net, hunting butterflies. And • . . she stood on tiptoe 



to see . . . yes, he seemed to have caught . * * oh, 
could It be that blue and black variety they hadn^t 
found ? She darted away, ran back, caught her brothe 
hand : " Louis^ just a minute ! I won*t be gone but ji 
a moment ! " she cried, and was off, her little icet patlc 
ing down the path to the road. 



Why^ he was alone! It was the very first time sti 
... he did not finish the sentence, shrinking away 
terror from the word, now that there was no need f^ 
bravado* 

He stood up wildly* He must get away at once, 
find some hidden spot, to be more and yet more alone 
He knew that from the house they could not see 
bench ... oh, he knew every inch of the grc 
around the house from having played all over it fr 
his childhood. He knew too that on the other side 
the hedge there was an open field with a big clump 
chestnut-trees, further along, opposite the hole in 
hedge where you could scramble through. 

He started down the path. It was the first time 
had taken a step without having some one rush to lead 
him. His heart beat fast. 

He followed the path, feeling his way with his cas 
There was the hole in the hedge. Somehow, he wt^ 
through, and walking on sod, soft, soft, under his it 
no, something round and hard was there. He furoWi 
picked it up ; a chestnut. He must be near the clump < 
trees. Alone he had found the way I 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 199 

He turned to the left. In the old days there was a 
little hollow where the brook ran, a little hollow all 
tiiickly overgrown with ferns just large enough to hide 
a boy who was playing robbers. If he could only find 
that place and lie down in the ferns again! Scorning 
to put out his hands to grope, he stepped forward slowly 
into the black infinity about him. After a few steps, 
something brushed lightly against his hanging hand. He 
stooped and felt in his fingers the lace-like grace of a 
fem-stalk. The sensation brought back to him with 
diocking vividness all his boyhood, sun-flooded, gone 
forever. 

He flung himself down in the midst of the ferns, the 
breaking-point come at last, beating his forehead on the 
^ound. ... It was the first time that he could throw 
aside the racking burden of his stoicism. At last he was 
alone, entirely alone in the abyss where henceforth he 
Was to pass his days and nights. Dreadful tears ran 
Sown from his blind eyes upon the ferns. He was alone 
It last, he could weep. At last this was not rage, this 
Iras black, black sorrow. 

Now they were shed, the tears, the great scalding 
lood of them had fallen. The man lay on his face in the 
?cnis like a dead body on a battlefield, broken, drained 
Iry of everything, of strength, of stoicism, of suffering, 
sven of bitterness. For the moment there was nothing 
^ft . . . nothing but the consciousness of being alone, 
^mpty and alone in the blackness. 



200 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



And yet was he alone, quite alone? Something m i 
black gulf stirred and made a rustle of leaves high 01 
his head. The little sound came clear to his ears, 
three dear whistling notes dropped down to himj 
thrush trying his voice wistfully, dreaming of the su 
past- The angel-pure perfection of those notes sornid 
across the black gulf with ineffable radiance. TTiej 
trate man at the foot of the tree heard them ring 
out in the echoing, empty rooms of his heart. 
seemed the first sounds he had ever heard, the pr 
of something new^ of everything new. He did not s1^ 
but he held his breath to listen. 

The bird did not sing again. And yet there was! 
silence as he had thought Listening for the bird^s od 
he heard the delicate murmur of the leaves, light ar 
gios accompanying the singing voice of the little bro 
now suddenly quite loud in his ears. He felt the fe 
stalks stirring against his cheek and divined their 
submission to the wind. The chestnut was still iii 
hand, unimaginably smooth, polished, flawless* 
breeze lifted his hair in a movement gentler than 
thing human * . . his blackened house was no Jc 
empty of all things. 

Presently his young body wearied of immobility. 
found himself on his back, stretched out on the 
earth, his arms crossed under his head, his eyes 
toward the sky he would never see again. His mt] 
were all relaxed as they had not been for months, 
taut nerve was loosened. The wind blew softly an 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 201 

*aves, across his forehead. On a sudden caprice, 
irush again sent down its three perfect notes, like 
chanted flute. . . . 

ey ushered him into the moment he had inexpressi- 
)nged for, inexpressibly feared, the moment when 
1st stop hating and raging, must stop pretending to 
rd, when he must at last be honest with himself, 
face what there was to face, must say out the word 
id never dared to say in his heart, although his 
I lips had brought it out so many times, when he 
announce to his terrified heart : " I am a blind man. 
; does it mean to be blind ? " 
ove his body, infinitely tired, infinitely reposed by 
aroxysm of sorrow, his mind soared, imperious, 
•like, searching. What was the meaning of it? He 
d squarely at it like a brave man, and knew that 
d the courage to look at it. With an effort of all 
ling, he began to think; with all his force, with all 
ill, with all his energy, to think. With the action 
It a stirring of life in all those empty chambers of 
iing. 

e moments passed. The thrush sang once, stirred 
5 trees, flew to another, sang again, and was not 
. The blind eyes staring up at the sky saw nothing 
ial, and yet began to see. A dim ray glowed in the 
less. 

ter a time he said hurriedly to himself, nervously 
us lest he should let the clue out of his hand : " Our 



2Q2 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



senses ar6 not ourselves; we are not our senses. TsM 
they are the instruments of our understanding- ToB 
blind means that I have one less instrument than othcf 
men. But a man with a telescope has one more than 
other men, and is life worthless to them because ^ 
that?'' ^ 

He paused breathless with the effort of the first thought 
of his own since, since , . . *' And our senses^ even 
the best of them are like an earthworm*s vague intuitioiii 
beside scientific instruments, a thermometer, a loicrcK 
scope, a photographic plate. And yet with what they 
give tis^ poor, imperfect as it is, we make our life, m 
make our life/' 

He took one more poor stumbling step along the path 
he divined open to him : " A man with understandiuf, 
without a telescope, without a microscope can see mM 
than a fool with both instruments/* Aloud he » 
gravely, as though it were a statement of great valJI 
" The use one makes of what one has, that is the fonnuju 
That is my formula/' ■ 

There was a pause, for him luminous* He told him* 
self quietly, without despair : " And as for understandiaB 
for really seeing what is, aren't we all groping our vi^ 
in the dark? Am I blinder than before? " It seem^ 
to him that something within him righted itself, balancfl 
poised. His sickness left him. He knew an instaiM 
certainty , . . of what? Of himself? Of life? ■ 
so it was the first he had ever known in all his lifl 
Strange that it should come now, when. . * . I 



THE FIRST TIME AFTER 203 

Then all this fell away from him. He thought no 
more. He lay on the earth now, not like a dead man on 
a battlefield, but like a child on its mother's knees. He 
felt the earth take him in her arms, and he closed his 
eyes, abandoning himself to her embrace. 

The sound of distant voices roused him from his 
dreaming doze. He turned on his elbow to listen. The 
old aunt, the old cousin were talking together : " Oh, the 
naughty little girl, off there in the meadow chasing but- 
terflies ! How heartless children are ! To leave her poor 
brother all alone, when he needs so to be cheered ! " 

The blind man lying in the ferns broke out into a 
laugh, a ringing young laugh, without irony, without 
bitterness. 

It was the first time he had laughed since . • . since 
his Uindness. 



HATS 

My attention was first attracted to him by the ring 
of his voice as he answered the question a woman near 
me put to him, amiably trying to start a conversation: 
** And may I ask, Mr. Williams, what are you in France 
for, Red Cross, or Y.M.C.A., or perhaps reconstruction 
work ? I'm refugees, myself. It's always interesting to 
know other people's specialties. You often have so mudi 
in common. The only branches I don^t know anything 
about are orphans and the blind." 

To this the distinguished-looking, gray-haired man re- 
sponded gravely, " Madame, I am in France for hats." 

''Hats!" exclaimed the war-worker. 

" Hats," he reaffirmed quietly. 

She looked at him wildly and moved to another part 
of the room towards a recognizably tagged young woman 
in a gray uniform. 

The timbre of his voice struck curiously on my ear. 
I cannot express its quality other than to say it made 
the voices of the rest of us sound like those of coll^ 
professors and school-teachers; and I don't pretend to 
know exactly what I mean by that. 

He aroused my curiosity. I wanted to investigate 
so I began looking vague, letting my eyes wander, and 
answering at random. Presently the earnest talker hold- 



HATS 205 

ing forth to me grew indignant at my lack of attention, 
broke off abruptly, and went away. I turned to the man 
with the different voice and asked, " What in the world 
makes you come to France for hats, just now in the midst 
of the war?" 

He answered with instant decision, " Because the 
only hats worth buying are made in Paris." 

'^Nawf with France bleeding to death, how can they 
make hats, invent new fashions ! " 

His eye kindled. " Madame, a good French modiste 
on her deathbed could make a better hat than any one 
in New York ever could." 

I pondered this. His accent was indubitably Ameri- 
can, not to say New York. But there are cases of 
French people who have spent part of their childhood in 
the States who speak perfectly. " You must be at least 
partly of French extraction to be able so to understand 
and admire France," I ventured. 

He opposed a rather startled and very emphatic nega- 
tive. "Me? Not much! I'm as American as they 
make 'em. Born on lower Broadway and brought up in 
the New York public schools. I don't know anything 
about France, except that we have to come here to get 
the right styles in hats. I don't even speak any French 
except to say ' combien ' and enough to count." 

I was put off the scent entirely. " Oh, I thought from 
the way you spoke that you knew France well. This is 
your first visit, then?" 

He was silent a moment, making a mental calculation. 



206 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

Then he said : " This is my fifty-first visit to Paris. I 
have come twice a year for a little more than twenty-five 
years." 

** Always for hats? " I queried^ my imagination reelii^ 
at this vista. 

" Always for hats," he said seriously. 

I tried to be facetious. " Dear me ! You must know 
all there is to know about hats." 

He shook his head. " Nobody knows an3rthing about 
hats." He added, very much in earnest, " Style is one 
of the great obscure mysteries of life." 

This had always been one of my observations^ but 
one I have petulantly and impatiently deplored. I had 
never thought to hear it expressed with such heartfelt 
gravity and weight by a man of such evident vigor of 
personality. 

I said, laughing uneasily, "It makes one very self- 
conscious about one's own hat, to know oneself in the 
presence of such a connoisseur." 

He reassured me : " Oh, I never look at hats except in 
the way of business." In his turn he looked vague, and 
let his eyes wander, evidently much bored with my re- 
marks. In another moment he would have turned away, 
but just then an acquaintance came up to me, addressing 
me by name, and my new interlocutor broke in with 
a quite human eagerness, " Oh, are you Mr. John P. 
Hulme's niece ? " 

" Why, do you know my Uncle John? " I cried aston- 
ished. 



HATS 207 

" He's one of the best business friends I have," he as- 
sured me, " and I have often seen the picture of you and 
the children he has on his desk. You must let me go 
to see them. I've got grown-up children of my own. It 
will be a real treat to me to know some American chil- 
dren here." 

In this casual manner, slipping in on the good graces 
of my little son and daughter, I entered a world the very 
existence of which I had never suspected, long and fre- 
quent as had been my sojourns in Paris ; the world of hat- 
buyers. And I had for guide the very dean and master 
of the guild, to whom the younger aspirants looked up, 
whose sure, trained instinct was their despair and in- 
spiration. 

It was perhaps his influence, dominating that circle, 
which made them all so serious and intent on mastering 
their profession, so respectful of their chosen occupation, 
so willing to give it the very best of their judgment and 
taste. This was the more remarkable as, with the ex- 
ception of my new friend, they were quite the opposite 
of serious-minded men and women, and, in the intervals 
of the exercise of their profession, enjoyed rather more 
than was good for their health, morals, and pocketbooks, 
the multiple occasions offered by a great city to damage 
those possessions. I was not at all in sympathy with 
what seemed to me the indifference of their relaxations 
in a country so stricken as France; but I could not with- 
hold my astonished admiration for the excellent serious- 
ness with which they approached their business. I would 



2C« 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



have blushed to disclose to them the light shallow femn 
ity of my careless, rather slighting attitude towards "■ 
mode/' Also I was amazed at the prodigious financia 
importance of their operations. The sums which, witfl 
out a blink, they paid out for hats, and the number al 
hats they thus secured and the further sums which thn 
looked forward to paying into the coffers of the Uni&efl 
States Customs, sounded to me as unbelievable as tlion 
nightmare calculations as to the distance of the staif 
from the earth or how much it has cost to build the 
Panama Canal. 

" All that for hats! ^* I cried, " and every year» twice 
a year ! " 

'* Oh, this is only the smallest part of what goes into 
hats,** the expert assured me, '^ What Fm buying now 
are only single models, you understand; the successful 
ones, the well-chosen ones, will be copied by the hundre^ 
dozen in the States and in Canada. That chenille toqiiB 
you saw me buy the other day . . /' I 

" That little, plain, ugly scrap of a thing you paid a 
hundred dollars for?*' I asked, giddy again with the^ 
remembered shock of that price* 

" Yes. Well, probably that will be very widely copied 
at first in New York and then everywhere. It's a fafl 
guess to say, that being a model that's sure to be populas 
there will be at least twenty thousand toques like 9 
sold in different places in the States for ftve doUaifl 
apiece/' I 

I was staggered. " A hundred thousand dollars speifl 



HATS 



20^ 



in one season, just for one out of all the different models 
of womeo's hats I" My old superficial scom for "the 
style " disappeared in an alarmed dismay at its unsus- 
pected scope. "Why, that's terrible! It*s appalling! 
When there isn't enough money to make the schools what 
£hey ought to be, nor to take care of the sick, nor to keep 
up the ..." 

He showed an unexpected humanity. " Yes, it is aw- 
ful/' he agreed gravely — "very, very awfuL And still 
more awful is the way we live right along beside such an 
awful force and never have the slightest idea that it 
rules our lives and not what we wish or decide." 

For all my consternation I found this excessive. *' Oh, 
come, it's not so bad as that! " I cried. 

" Yes, it is/' he assured me with his formidable quiet 
certainty. " Yes, it is. It goes beyond anything we can 
imagine. It's the greatest force in the world, this desire, 
this absolute necessity to be in the style. Nothing else 
can stand up against it for a moment^ not hunger, not 
fear, not love, not religion. They only exist so far as 
they don't get in the way of being in the style. The 
minute they interfere with that, over they go like a pack 
of cards in a tornado! What do you think a man is 
doing w^hen he works all his life for his family? Is he 
irning their livings? Not much. He's enabling them 

keep in style, and if he doesn't he is a failure. What 
you really want for your children? That they may 

iw up to develop all the best they have in them . . . 

s, if that doesn't prevent their being in style/' 



2IO HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

I found all this so outrageous that I could only stare 
a silent protest 

" I don't mean just my small part of it, hats/' he ex- 
plained, " although hats are always, so to speak, the crest 
of the tidal wave. It's everything. Style rules every- 
thing. Of course all material things, furniture, clothes, 
the way houses are built and gardens laid out and parks 
made and pictures painted. Everybody can see with his 
own eyes how they are all determined by whatever the 
style happens to be in that century or year, and not by 
anything we want or need. But more than that, too. 
Everything goes together. We talk and eat and act ac- 
cording to the kind of furniture we have; for instance, 
when rough-hewn Morris furniture was the rage and 
we all had to have it or dry up and blow away with envy, 
don't you remember how the athletic blowsy styles in 
clothes and manners came in too, and it was all the thing 
to go to a funeral in a striped shirt and yellow shoes and 
the girls' shirtwaists Moused over in front as though they 
had forgotten to tuck them in, and how bulging pompa- 
dours straggled down in every woman's eyes ? " 

" Do you mean," I was ready to laugh at him, " that 
you think that our Morris furniture influenced us so 
deeply as all that? Even Morris would be surprised to 
hear so much claimed for it." 

He was scornful of my incapacity to grasp the scope 
of his idea. " No, Lord no ! The Morris furniture 
hadn't anything more to do with it than a tree bent 
double with the storm has to do with making the wind 



HATS 211 

blow. I mean that the same thing that made us mort- 
gage our souls to have Morris furniture just then, made 
us also talk slang and wear yellow shoes to funerals." 

" Well, what did make us? " I challenged him. 

He answered monosyllabically, solemnly, with his re- 
doubtable, arresting conviction, " The style did." 

We were both silent a moment as if in the presence of 
Niagara or the ocean. 

Then I said, in a feebler challenge, " Well, what is 
'the style'?" 

He professed the admirable ignorance of a wise man 
in the face of mystery. 

" I wish I knew. It looks to me like a big current that 
takes in everything, that is so big we don't know it's 
there, just the way people didn't use to know the world 
was round, because it is too big to see. And it carries 
us along like dry leaves and where it's going to, nobody 
knows. We know just as much about it, as we do about 
where water runs underground; which is to say, nothing. 
But when it comes to that part of style that makes hats 
and dresses, there are a few people who can hold a 
hazel-rod and have it point downwards, and they are 
oftener right than the rest of us. And every one of 
those few is French and lives in Paris. Don't ask me 
why I That's the way it is. And it would be enough 
sight more convenient for me, let me tell you, if it were 
otherwise." 

I understood this exclamation, having learned by this 
time how great an affliction to Mr. Williams personally 



212 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



were these semi-annual trips to France. He knew tiQUm 
ing of Paris outside of the great modistes' shops, and be' 
cared less. Since he knew no French the theaters wm 
closed to him. Since he was mildly musical (he playe^ 
the violin a little) concerts helped a little to allay hfl 
ennui ; but only a little. Being a family man of very d(fl 
mestic tastes, he took slight part in the %^ery cheerfifl 
proceedings with which the other buyers whiled awajH 
the hours between business operations, and although ti^ 
was invited to their gay suppers in expensive restamann 
he struck an austere note there, drinking only water, nal 
smoking, and eating sparingly of simple dishes, quit^ 
evidently counting the hours till he could get back to 
America and to his garden in Westchester Coimt>% 

In spite of this lack of appreciation of what was of- 
fered him, he was very frequently invited to the nightly 
feasts of his young confreres, and they htmg about him 
eagerly because of their superstitious reverence for whit 
they called his " hunch," " Whatever Grandpa says is 
going to go, goes," was their expressed belief. They tried 
by ingenious devices to exploit his scent for the style* 
to be within earshot when he was making selections, to 
suborn the miDmers into showing them the models he 
had selected Such crude, outright efforts at getting 
the better ci him he defeated with a wary dexterit)* 
getting up and leaving a shop abruptly if one of hii 
rivals began to loiter too near him, and letting it be 
known that he would buy no more from any inilliiief 
who reproduced " his " models for one of the other 





HATS 213 

American buyers. This last precaution was not neces- 
sary, for the sense of professional honor and jealousy is 
not keener among doctors themselves than among Paris 
fashion-makers, nor was the capacity for darkly guarding 
secrets more developed in Renaissance Italian poisoners 
than in a twentieth-century modiste's shop on the Place 
Vendome. Also Mr. Williams, who had seen a whole 
generation of modistes grow up and disappear into old 
age, enjoyed the very high esteem of those quick-eyed, 
quick-fingered, quick-witted ladies with the wonderful 
simple coiffures and the wonderful simple hats. This was 
not solely because of the very large sums of money 
which were at his disposition and which he spent with 
Napoleonic decision and despatch. They respeaed his 
competence also. " There is one who can appreciate our 
work ! " they said of him. " He always picks out the 
best. There is one who could have made hats, himself ! " 
A characterization which the American would have re- 
pudiated with energy if he could have understood a word 
they were saying. 

But although, as a matter of business ac^:*^ness, he re- 
fused to allow himself to be exploited ir ^ * ways by 
his young competitors, he was always ^ ,^ ^^ .xpound 
his philosophy to them and to lay j *^^ general 
lines along which they might deveP ^p,,.,v Not 

infrequently their elaborate dinners rf '',^. • ,' J'l had 

been eaten and drunk by the elab i ^ . ^\ ^ '*"cn 

•^ ; ne ine(' to ■-. 

and smooth-shaven, young-old r- '^[^^^^^ de-i'-iut .^^^" 
tion flung despairingly at Mr. ir^^^'^ AW^exv:.- *vf^ 



214 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



spectability, *' Grandpa, how tbe dickens da you do 'at. 
TdlusI" I 

He always told them, at length, in detail, as loeg m 
they would listen, although they never understocKl am 
word of what he said. Hoping to catch him off « 
guard and to cull some valuable short-cut tip to suocesfl 
they lent ears as attentive as their somewhat bemusd 
condition would let them, as long as their patience held 
out, 

'* The trouble with most of you young people," he was 
won: to say^ presenting as he went on the abhorrent 
spectacle of a man at the Cafe Riche taking occasional 
sips Irom a glass of water, " is that you don't realize 
that you are up against a big thing, the biggest thinj 
there is. You think you can just josh along somehoi 
pick out what looks good to you, what you think wc 
be pretty for your best girl to wear, and have it ^, 
Nothing like that! What you like, what you think 
pretty, hai.n't a thing to do with what's going to happeiL, 
What's golft^ to happen, happens, whether anybody lil 
it or not* ar I the only thing for us to do is to keep 
ears to tl^"^ * 'ound hard and try to guess three or f( 
months ^ '^ than most people. Nobody can gu< 
further '■•-**^ 'han that and mighty few people even 
far as - '' ^'^ ^^Ht people don't know what style is 
ing t^^ ^ " ' I^>m in tbe eye. Now, to make a gc 
fues^ * 'to keep your eyes open to everjthi 

^cve '^^ *•* ^^"^lai sort of gather yourself togell 
am *'^ W breath and listen, as if you m 






HATS 215 

eavesdropping folks who were trying to keep a secret 

from you; as if you had to catch a very faint A sounded 

way off that you could tune your own fiddle to. And 

. youVe got to get passive all over, the way the hypno- 

tizers tell you to do, let yourself go, don't try to have 

any ideas of your own, don't try to swim against the 

. current, don't try to hurry things up by swimming faster 

than the current. No power on earth can hurry that 

current, nor make it bring anything but what it's going 

to bring! And it's up to us, let me tell you, to take 

"~ what it does bring! I've seen lots of styles that no- 

- body liked, not the modistes who made them, not the 

-^ buyers who took them to the States, not the hundreds of 

^ thousands of American women who paid out their hus- 

y, bands' good money to buy them. And yet those styles 

^.had just as big a vogue and lasted just as long as any 

I others, and the buyers who tried to dodge them and 

*f who chose what looked prettier to them got everlast- 

'^ ingly stung. And aren't there styles that everybody 

Vjust hates to see disappear, comfortable, decent, becoming 

■' I styles? But do they stay in, just because we'd like to 

4 have them? You know they don't. 

" And it's no use trying to do anything on your own 

I hook. There was old man Blackmar, head of the Black- 

ixnar and Jennings Ribbon Company; he could manufac- 

frlture ribbons to beat any French factory going, if he got 

Hfte designs from France. Every time he tried to have 

^^ime designed by a perfectly good American designer, the 

•f ribbon didn't sell. It didn't look so very dvftei^xvV, \i\5\. 



2i6 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

it wouldn't sell. You'd have thought he'd have learned 
something out of seeing that happen every time he tried 
it, wouldn't you ? But he never did. Why, I was hoa- 
estly sorry for him, five or six years ago when all of a 
sudden the styles went dead against ribbons or any other 
trimming for hats. It pretty near ruined him, coming 
after the modistes had been piling everything they could 
buy on top of their hats. But he didn't know enough to 
take his medicine without making a face. He couldn't get 
it through his head that he was up against a bigger propo- 
sition than he was, than anybody is. He came to me and 
he said : ' Williams, I'll give you fifteen thousand dollars, 
cash, in your hand, if you'll steer things over in Paris so's 
to bring hat-trimmings back into style; ribbons of course 
if you can, but if not, most any kind of trimmings. I 
can alter our machines to do braids and such. This 
craze for just the naked hat-shapes with one little rag 
of an ornament, I tell you, it'll send me into the bank- 
ruptcy court.' 

" I was very sorry for him and I said so, and I said 
I'd do anything to help him out except try to slap back 
the Hudson river with the flat of my hand. He said he 
was sick of hearing me always get off that same old guft 
and if I really wanted to, I could. ' Why, they tell me 
every modiste in Paris calls you " uncle." With plenty 
of money you could get on the right side of them and 
get them to launch trimmed styles.' 

" I just threw up my hands at that. I saw he didflK 
Jknow any more about the innerds of his business tfaafls 



HATS 217 

babe uwbom. I said to him : ' Why, old man, you don't 
'sup{K)8e for a minute that the modistes in Paris invent 
the styles, make 'em up out of their heads? They haven't 
got any more to say about what it's to be than you or 
me. All they can do is to take Ae style that's going to 
' arrive in six months, and put it into silk and felt and 
straw. They can't have it the way they want it any more 
than the priestess of something-or-other could say what 
she wanted, when they put her over the oracle-hole, filled 
her up with gas, and told her to make an oracle.' 

"Blackmar was sore as a boil at me, and said if I 
wouldn't do it he'd give the job to Pierce. Pierce was 
buying for Condit and Vergary in those days. I said 
he could throw away all the money he wanted to, but / 
Wouldn't help him spill it. 

*' Well, Pierce tried to swing the deal, bucking the 
Universe all alone, and so proud to have the chance 
to. He went to all the best modistes in Paris and said 
he'd give — well, I'm ashamed to tell you what he gave — 
if they would make him models all trimmed up, heavy 
and expensive with handsome trimmings. Of course, at 
first they said they couldn't do it, the hats wouldn't 
he in style. And he said if they made the hats that 
Way and sent them out with their names in gilt letters 
in the lining, they would be in style, would be the style. 
Didn't everything they made set the fashion ? They 
tried to explain to him that that was because they took 
the greatest pains to make things that were in fashion, 
Init Lord ! he couldn't talk their language. He just kept 



2i8 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

on insisting and holding out those banknotes, and by and 
by they said, well, to get rid of him they would. And he 
came to my hotel and bragged all over me like a man 
who's cornered the wheat-market 

''They did make him trimmed models: and as thef 
were the best modistes in the world they were as pretty j 
hats as ever you saw. They were all trimmed up as per 
agreement with ribbons that would make a dead womaii 
sit up and reach out her hand. Pierce took me into his 
office before they were packed, to show them to me, and 
he said, ' Now, Grandpa, what you got to say? ' And I L 
said, * You let me know four months from now how L 
much money you've made on them.' h' 

** About six weeks after that, back in New York, I 
went into his office and there, by George, were all bat 
two of his fifteen models. None of the American mano- 
facturers would have them, not at any price. They'd 
send their head milliner to see them and she'd say, * 01^ 
what perfectly lovely ribbon,' — ^but no, thanks, she didn't 
want to buy the model, because they wouldn't sell. They 
weren't what were being worn that season. Pierce said: 
' Great Scott ! look at the labels. They come from al 
the best modistes in Paris ' ; and she'd say she couldnl 
help that; if they weren't what was being worn thcf 
wouldn't sell. And before three months were up ht*l 
given them to the janitor's little girl for dolls' dothcft 
There you are." 

There were evident signs of inattention from his afrL 
dience by this time, but he went on : *' And yoimg 



^ 



HATS 219 

lond, he tried to tear the teeth off the buzz-saw with his 
ngers, too. And he got what was coming to him. He 
id a great idea, regular perpetual motion scheme for 
;onomy, of how he could beat the game and he hypno- 
zed old John Harbine into standing for it It was 
J simple as bread and milk, Hammond would take up 
Paris modiste, somebody on a back-street somewhere, 
^t her under contract to be ' Harbine's/ and Harbine's 
one. Then they'd put her name in the hands of the best 
ivertising agency in New York and let things rip. Well, 
ley started out as though they were going to a fire. 
oa couldn't see the spokes, the wheels went around so 
fit. The advertising people delivered the goods, put 
^ best people on their force on the job. I remember 
ey had one wUegergraduate woman that could write 
s that would taake you pay five dollars for a straw- 
rry basket — pncef She wrote up their great find in 
iris, wrote it up like a magazine short-story— modiste 
no up to the time Hammond had spotted her had been 
exclusive you couldn't find her with a microscope, had 
ily worked for the pure-bloods among the French aris- 
cracy, no mere Americans had ever known her name 
ran can bet your Hfe they hadn't )-^^u can imagine 
e kind of patter, the sort of thing women suck up by 
e barrel ful. And then, owing to unheard-of prices 
Tered by Harbine's out of that disinterested devotion 
> American womanhood which is Harbine's great qual- 
y, she had finally consented to send a few hats, never 
lore than a dozen a season, to Harbrnt'^, N^^vexe^ ^^ 



k 



220 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

first collection would be on exhibition March 21st, and 
which would be exactly copied to order in imported ma- 
terials with all the inimitable chic of the original models^ 
for such low prices as from fifteen dollars up. 

"It was well done. I'm bound to admit that ad- 
writer got just the right esthetic, superior tone into it 
And as for Hammond, he ought to have been a stage- 
manager. He got some of the people back of me sort 
of worried. They came to me, ' Look-y here. Grandpa, 
sure you're not missing a point in the game? How 
about this Suzette ReBot person?' 

" I said : ' Her real name is Marie Duval and she used 
to sew in linings at Reboux', that's who she is. If she 
could have trimmed hats you can bet your life Reboux 
would have developed her years ago. Reboux has 
candles burning in every church in Paris, praying Heaven 
to send her apprentices that she can do something with! 
And if she can't trim hats you can bet your life old man 
Harbine. is going to lose some money, a lot of it in one 
clip, and he and Jimmy Hammond will part company 
with a bang.' 

" Well, I was over here in Paris when their great 
opening came off. But I heard about it. Nothing 
lacked. They all but served free champagne. But when 
I went back only a month later, the talk was already go- 
ing around among folks on the ins, that there was some- 
thing the matter with the Rellot collection. The women 
weren't just crazy about the hats and the modistes. 
wouldn't look at them. Later on, what was left of thcffl 



HATS 221 

"were sent down to South America — Colombia, I think. 
IVomen just hatching out from mantillas will stand for 
anything with a French label on it! And that summer 
Jimmy Hammond decided he'd go in for life-insurance." 
When he had talked as long as this I was usually the 
only person left listening, the rest having yawned, 
turned to each other, or melted away. But I listened, 
always, open-mouthed with astonishment and wonder. 
Before putting on my hats in those days I used to look 
at tiiem hard, with respect, almost with alarm, feeling 
heavy on my head the weight of their unsuspected sig- 
nificance. Wondering what the great expert's opinion 
would be about Ae plain, everyday hats of ordinary 
women I asked him one day : " Tell me, can you descend 
to small beer? What do you think of the hats you see, 
not in those wonderful, silk-hung studios, but those you 
see on the heads of the women in the streets, on mine? 
Is this hat I have on stylish? I warn you I bought it 
ofif a counter for less than four dollars." 

He answered instantly, without giving a glance at my 
headgear: "You are a healthy, normal woman and 
you're wearing it. Of course it's in style. If it weren't, 
and you had to wear it, you'd be sick abed." 

" You exaggerate, you are always exaggerating," I 
r protested. " You only know women who care about the 
*. styles. I never bother my head about my hats ! I just 
* walk into almost any shop and buy the first hat that 
: doesn't make me look too queer." 
j» " You don't have to bother yourself about it," he told 



'222 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



me, his accent tinged with weary bitterness. " We doT 
the bothering I Months beforehand. An army of Wk, 
able-bodied men, smart women, pretty young girls, wt 
all of us give np our lives to fixing things so you cau 
walk into most any shop and pick up most any hat mi^ 
find it doesn't make yon look too * queer/ which is yo 
way of saying that it doesn't make you look out of styli 

'* There are moments/' I told himj in a hall-serio 
indignation, "when I find you too absurd for words^^ 
the victim of the most absurd hanucinations ! All 
portentous talk about the world-wide conspiracy to 
people keep up with the style. As if the style had 
importance for sensible people! " 

" If you knew more about the capita! and brains 
are invested in that conspiracy, you*d take it serious 
all right," he assured me with melancholy, ** and as 
not taking the styles seriously, how many thousand 
lars would it take to pay you to go around in the strettj 
one day, just one day, in the big bustle your mot 
used to be ashamed to go outdoors without? " 

I lost myself in horrified contemplation of the 
tesque vision he had conjured up and forgot to rcf 
him. Perhaps I couldn't. 

Towards the end of his stay he was very 
troubled by persistent rumors that the boat on whij 
he was to sail would be torpedoed on the way to Nl 
York* He acknowledged, with the fatigued frant* 
of his sixty years past, that he was mortally afraid 
the passage and that his fear would deprive him 



HATS 223 

sleq) all the way over. " No sane man likes to be killed," 
he complained, "let alone be blown up and burned to 
death and drowned into the bargain ! I'm a family man! 
I want to go on earning a living for my wife and chil- 
dren!'^ 

The evening before he went away he was so fretful 
about this and so outspoken about his dread, that I asked 
him, " Why don't you wait over a boat? " 

" Oh, what's the use ? One boat's as likely to go 
down as another. And, anyhow, I've got to get home. 
And then come over again for the next season, curse the 
luck!'* 

I thought him again a little absurd. " Oh, come, the 
heavens wouldn't fall if you missed one or two sea- 
sons!" 

He turned grave, and after a moment's hesitation, 
opened a door which I had thought locked and nailed 
up, and showed me that the room in his heart which I 
had thought was certainly empty and vacant was a queer, 
dimly lighted little chapel, with queer, dim little candles 
burning before what was recognizably an ideal. 

" Oh, it's no time for anybody to lie down on the 
job," he said offhand. I did not dream that he was 
referring to the war. I had become convinced that his 
curious, specialized world held no place for the horror 
and apprehension which filled the lives of the rest of us. 
Nor had I ever seen him give any signs of the shocked 
pity which most people feel at the sight of the war- 
maimed men, the black-clad, white-faced war-orphans 




k 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

and the widows with blurred eyes. I had thought he 
saw m France, only and uniquely, hats. So I asked in 
genuine ignorance of his meaning: ''How do yo 
mean, this being no time to lie down on the job? W 
job?'* 

He sat back in his chair and looked at the ceilin^r 
thereafter, as he talked, transferring his gaze to his 
finger-tips, joined with nicety. " Well, I guess I mean 
something about like this* If we humans are to get on 
at all, get any further away from havir^ tails and living 
in trees, we've got to knock down the partitions and 
make one big room of the world, the same way each 
nation is one big room, with the blacksmith trading hh 
horseshoes for clothes and not trying to be a tailor him- 
self. Take farmers. Maybe you can^t remember, but / 
can, when old farmers in Connecticut raised nearly every 
single thing they used all the year around, and were proud 
of being such idiots. Nowadays the Connecticut farmer 
don*t waste his time trying to grow com in a ctimate 
where you're liable to get frosts in early September; 
he leaves the farmer In Iowa to do that, and he raises the 
best apples in the world and with the money he makes 
that way, he buys him oranges that a Florida farmer 
has raised. It's my opinion that weVe got to come to 
that on a big, big scale. And if we do come to it there 
won*t be any more wars. Now, I don't know anytlii 
about anything but hats, and so I don't try lo have 
opinion about the League of Nations, nor how the trick 
is going to be turned by the statesmen — if there are 




HATS 225 

such — but if it is going to be turned, it's going to take 
everybody's shoulder to the wheel, you can be sure. And 
I've got a shoulder. What's got to be done is to get it 
through everybody's head that every nation ought not to 
learn to produce anything but what it can produce best, 
and that self-defense ought not to force it to make a 
botch of trying to do what another nation could do bet- 
ter. Now, one of the things that France can produce 
better than other peojde (and it happens to be the thing 
that I know about) is hats. I don't know whether it's 
because she's been at the business of running the styles 
so long, so much longer than anybody else so that she's 
got all her fibers settled together, just right to catch the 
note, the way the wood in an old violin trembles all over 
at sounds that leave the wood in the leg of a chair per- 
fectly calm. Mind, I don't say the violin is any more im- 
portant than a chair. As far as I'm concerned person- 
ally, if I had to dioose I'd rather have the chair. What 
I'm trying to say is that they are different. And we've 
got to get used to the idea that becatise things are differ- 
ent it doesn't mean one is better than the other and they 
ought both to be like the best one. Now, maybe it's the 
other way around, that France has been at this business 
of setting styles so long because she's had the gift to 
begin with. Anyhow, what's sure is that they do it 
better, everything along that line, ribbons, braids, straws, 
hats, dresses, furniture, houses, parks — original designs 
don't come from anywhere but France. But France is at 
war and pretty nearly gone under. She's got to \«ak& 



226 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

her designs with one hand and fight for her life with 1 
the other." 

He paused. " Well, I don't feel just like picking out 
that time to stop coming to France to get her designs 
and to do my part to keep up the taste for them, at 
home." 

I found no sufficiently admiring ccnnment to make on 
this, and kept a respectful silence. 

He went on, rubbing his hand back and forth over his 
gray hair : " But all that is only my guess at it What's 
my guess worth? Nothing. But it's all I've got to go 
by, and so I do go by it. I don't know anything about 
anything but hats, and I can't but just make a guess at 
them." 

He folded his hands before him and sighed. " There 
is a lot too much in hats for any one man to under- 
stand." 



A HONEYMOON . • . VIVE 
L'AMERIQUEl 

I NEVER knew many of the mere facts of their exist- 
ence; where all their money came from, nor the extraor- 
dinary romance which must have lain back of them. Nor 
did I care to. They were too epic a pair for realism to 
touch. I find on thinking them over that I never quite 
came to believe in their actual existence; and yet, what- 
ever value this slight sketch of them may have will be 
due to its literal truthfulness to fact. 

My first sight of them was on a very cold day in the 
second year of the war when they suddenly filled with 
their resplendent presence the dreary room which was 
known as my ''office." For several difficult months, 
against all the obstacles which made up everyday life in 
war-time France, I had been laboring to organize and 
get into shape a Braille printing establishment which 
would provide books for those most tragic of war- 
victims, the blind. Together with a crew of devoted 
volunteers I had tugged at the task, struggling like every- 
body else in France with a universal shortage of supplies, 
which began with able-bodied men and ran down to tacks 
and cheesecloth. There was also the difficulty of getting 
the " Authorization from the Government " before draw- 

227 



221: 



ing your breath; but unless you have experienced 
potent brake on enterprise, there is no use trying to di 
scribe it to you. 

And yet, somehow, we had managed to get along, hafl 
added to our two plaque-making machines a couple of 
presses (very poor, both of them), had scrambled to- 
gether a home-made device for wetting and drying the 
paper, had hunted down enough men to run the ma- 
chines, had trained enough proof-readers and assembled 
enough voluntary editors, so that after a fashion wc 
were really printing. The magazine, liberally bedewed 
with our blood and sweat, came out once a month; and 
although the two presses broke down with great fre- 
quency, we managed, by dint of incessant repairing, to 
keep at least one in shape to do tolerable work We 
really had something patched-up, ungainly, but reason- 
ably valid to show the sightseers who came through on 
the weekly visiting day, when all the rest of the insti* 
tution was open to visitors. 

I took my two Olympian guests for the usual idle^ 
visiting-day couple. I went the rounds with them, point- 
ing out with a weary satisfaction our various makeshifts. 
When I found that they listened receptively, I indulged 
in considerable self-pity over our difficulties, past and 
present On their part they asked a good many pointed 
questions about the business end of our enterprise, about 
the financial status of the institution, about the prob^ 
ability of permanence for the venture. They came bac 
to the " office " with me, the goddess in sables tal 




A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 229 

the solitary chair, while her mate sat down on the edge 

of my little table, stretching out before him legs clad 

in cloth of a fineness I had forgotten could exist. Quite 

casually, like the diamonds and pearls of the fairy-tales, 

amazing words now issued from their lips. " See here," 

said he of the broadcloth overcoat, " this is no way to do 

business. You can't get good work done with any such 

jtmk as those two presses ! Why, I wouldn't take them 

as a gift, not for old iron ! And turned by hand-power ! 

Isn't that Europe for you ? Why, for twenty-five cents 

a day of electric current, you could do ten times the 

work you are doing now, and have women run the 

presses ! Go find a modem electric press that a man 

can look at and not thtirfc he's Benjamin Franklin come 

to life again, and let us know how much it costs." 

^ He handed me his card as he spoke. 

3 The goddess quitted my rickety, cane-bottomed chair 

: and from her superb height dropped down on me, " You 

2' know, the kind that opens and shuts its jaws like a 

^ whale; perhaps you've seen them in printing establish- 

# ments at home." She tempered her assumption of my 

(ignorance by a smile out of the loveliest eyes imagin- 
aMe and added : " My father was a printer out West. 
' 1 used to play 'round in his shop. That's how I happen 
' to know." 

Gazing up at her fascinated, I noted how deep the little 
lines of kindliness were at the comers of her smiling gray 
, «yes, and how, beyond the usual conventional coating 
of powder, no efifort had been made to hidfe ^^^ i^KX^'GKi^ 



230 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

the beautiful face was not in its first youth. The conse- 
quent effect of honesty and good faith was ineffable, 
and had its perfect counterpart in the extraordinary sim- 
plicity and directness of her gentle manner. She drew 
her regal fur up around her long neck and her husband 
put his hat back on his thick white hair. ** While you're 
about it, you'd better get those two plaque-making ma- 
chines electrified," he remarked. " Any electrician could 
do it for you. There's no sense in having your operators 
push down that pedal for every letter they make. Man- 
power again ! Europe ! " 

I realized that they were moving towards the door and 
shook myself out of my entranced silence. " But yott 
can't buy a press of that kind in Paris ! " I called after 
them, all the bitterness of my past struggles in my voice. 
" You can't buy anything in war-time France. There 
hasn't been a press or anything else manufactured in 
France for two years ! Don't you know that all the fac- 
tories are making munitions?" 

Mr. Robert J. Hall — that was the name on the card 
— came back to me and said earnestly: " Money can't do 
everything, but I tell you that it can buy anything buyable 
if you've got enough of it. Now we'll give you money 
enough to buy that press. It's up to you to find it" 
From the doorway his wife smiled to mitigate his in- 
tense seriousness and said again, " It's the kind that opens 
and shuts its jaws, you know." The door swimg sb* 
behind them to a last call-to-arms, " Go to it ! " from M 
Hail. I 



A HONEYMOON 



VIVE L'AMEHIQUE! 231 



JiFive minutes later a proof-reader coming found me 

still standing, starmg at their card. 

m" What's the matter? "' she asked, 

"1 took her by the arm. " Look here/' I said, " did I 

ft show two visitors around the place ? " 
*Do you mean that awfully good-looking man with 
the white hair and the royal-princess-effect in sables and 
eyes like Trilby's?" 

I nodded, reassured. I had not dreamed them ! 



^ 



Of course I went to it. Of course I found the press. 
After such a galvanic shock, I could have found, if that 
had been my need, a featherbed on the Arc de I'fitoile. I 
have too many other things to tell you about the Halls to 
describe the hunt after the press, although in its way that 
was epic, too- Enough to say that after three weeks 
'of impassioned concentration on the subject during which 
'I ate, drank, slept, and lived printing-press, it was lo- 
cated, a second-hand one in excellent condition, in a loft 
;m the remotest corner of a remote industrial region of 
! Paris. It was quite exactly what we needed, a thousand 
jtiines better than anything we had dreamed of having, 
I felt almost a reverent admiration to see it opening and 
putting its great jaw, and spewing out perfect raised- 
pages, at least twelve times faster than our wretched 
d press; doing in one day tlie work of two weeks! 
But the price ! Like all war prices it was five times 
t it was worth when new. I hadn't the least idea 
my extraordinary visitors would buy it for us. 



^3^ 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



Why in the world should they ? In fact, by that time 9 
had gone back to thinking that I had dreamed thena. 

However, I betook myself to their hotel, into their 
private sitting-room, bright with chintz and copper and 
flowers* I found Mrs* Hall without her hat even lovelier 
than before, a little gray in her thick soft hair as hon* 
estly shown as the faint, fine lines of simple kindness 
in her clear skin. She wore a dark-blue satin dress richly 
embroidered, evidently a creation from one of the grat 
Paris houses* She assured me cordially that she was^ 
awfully glad to see me. 

Sitting on the edge of the Beauvais tapestry chair li!^ 
the poor relation on a begging expedition which I fe 
myself to be, I timidly told of my search, trymg to 
amusing about it* Now that I was there I dared 
mention the price. Finally, however, having run out i 
expedients to put off that dangerous moment, I broug 
out haltingly the sum needed, and began to say, excu 
ingly, that I thought I might get part of that from . 

Mr* Robert J. Hall moved to the writing-table 
took out a check-book. " I'll tack another thous 
francs on to that," he said over his shoulder as 
wrote, " I haven't been able to sleep nights for thinkii 
of those operators punching down the pedals by main 
strength and awkwardness." 

There was a silence as he wrote. Mrs. Rob 
J. Hall examined her glistening nails, looked oJ 
of the window, and, with a tact for which I was gratfrj 
fui, did not once glance at my face* I fancy 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 233 

iny expression, instead of gratitude, must have been 
ghipefaction. Mr. Hall blotted his check, detached it, 
iad handed it to me — ^the little bit of blue paper through 
iWhich I saw as in a vision hundreds of the terribly 
iKeded raised-type books put into those terribly empty 
Iqmds. I could find no words at all. " It's . . . it's 
lost like a miracle ! '* I was stammering, when some one 
Iknocked at the door, a timid, hesitating knock, such as 
inine had been. 

The sound seemed to alarm the Halls. " Good Lord, I 
iet it's the abbe!" said Mr. Hall. 

"You don't happen to speak French, do you?" asked 
his wife hastily. " Oh, you do ? It's all right then. It's 
the cure of a town in the war-zone and we want to help 
Um with some war-orphans, but we have the most awful 
Une trying to make him understand about business de- 
ails. It's perfectly terrible, not speaking the lan- 
ruages." 

We turned to meet a short, elderly, double-chinned ec- 
lesiastic who carried his bulky body with the impersonal 
Professional dignity of his calling, but was not other- 
wise in the least impressive. The conversation began. 

It consisted of an attempt on the part of Mr. Hall 
o get the cure to " come to the point," as he expressed 
t, and name a sum, and of terror-stricken evasions on 
he part of the cure to do any such thing for fear of 
osing their interest. This fencing centered about a 
arge house which the cure needed to fit up for the re- 
^tion of a number of war-orphans. " Ho\i xaxxdcv^^ 



234 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



it cost?** asked Mn Hall patiently, over and over, evi- 

pdently seeing no reason for his not receiving a direct 

answer. Upon my pressing the abbe hard^ he finally 

|broyght out the sum, miserably, in a faltering voice 

"which made me want to shake his hand, I knew hq^ 

he felt. I 

The Halls consulted each other with a look of intini^ 

understanding. " All right," said the husband, " m 

right, on condition that he can get the funds from W 

diocese to keep the thing going if we set it on foot* 

To me, he added : " The more we see of this sort oL 

thing, the more we see you've got to go slow at timfl 

These Europeans are so impractical that first thing yor 

know they've used the money you give them to get theaJ 

selves into some fool scheme, without half seeing thfl 

way through. We make it a rule not to give anythingfl 

a concern which isn't on a good, sound, business bask. 

What's the use?" J 

I turned to the waiting priest, who had been wil« 

trying to guess from our faces what we were sayin 

and translated Mr, Halfs philosophy of philanthrope 

I found a little difficulty in hitting on the acact Fretfl 

phrase to express ** a good, sound, business basis ** H 

evidently I made myself understood, because the (fl 

man's lips began to tremble eagerly, '* Oh yes, yJM 

madame, tdl them that I can bring a letter to-morroH 

from my bishop guaranteeing the support * . * if onifT 

the house can be secured and fitted up/* | ' 

Mr. Hall sent back tKtovi^h me : " Well, you tell htsM^ 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 23s 

that the minute he shows me that letter from his bishop, 
i, I'll give him a check for the house, and some over for 
- extras." 
. . I translated this exactly as it was said. 

For an instant the cure kept a solemn silence, his 

eyes looking through us and beyond. I knew what he 

: was seeing, a big sheltering house with happy, rescued 

' children playing in the garden. The graceless, stout old 

"■'man looked very touching to me. 

» Then he came back to a sense of the inherent probabfli- 
^ ties of things, and appealed to me in a trembling voice, as 
: to one who at least spoke his language and to this degree 
", , was more of the real world than these amazing strangers : 
"^ **Are you sure you told them correctly? It is such a 
l^ great sum ! And nobody else has been willing to . . . 
p Madame, do you . . . do you really think they will do 
jitf'' 

f I showed him the check still in my hand. " They 
j have just given me this for the war-blind,'' I said. I 
f found my own voice not entirely steady. 

Then it was my turn to look out of the window while 
he took his agitated departure. I tried not to listen, 
but I could not help hearing that he gave them his bless- 
ing. I wondered how he managed it, being but half 
their height. 

I was still at the window when he emerged from the 
hotel entrance into the open square below. He stood 
looking up and down wildly, forgetting to put his broad- 
brimmed, flat-crowned hat on his head although it was 



236 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

raining. Then, as though at random, he crossed the wet 
asphalt and vanished down a side street He staggered 
a little as he walked. I knew just how he felt 

When I turned back from the window, the Halls asked, 
offhand and as though it would be doing them a favcjr, 
to accompany them on an automobile trip out to the 
front, near St Quentin. (I had been trying vainly for 
three months to get a sauf -conduit which would let me 
get to the front.) "We want to take some money out 
to the villages the Germans blew up when they retreated 
last month; and seeing how quick we got the cure fixed 
up with somebody to talk French, we thought it wouM 
be nice if you could go with us." This from Mrs. HalL 
Her husband continued, as if in explanation of a slightly 
eccentric taste : " You see, we like to dodge the commit- 
tee-and-report effect in war-relief. It takes so long for 
those big shebangs to get into action, don't you think? 

" And we like to manage so that the spending of the 
money we give isn't in the hands of one of these sdf- 
satisfied young women in uniform who know all about 
Elmira, New York, but do they about the Department 
of the Aisne ? It's unscientific, I know, but in such cases 
as these people who have been cleaned out by the Ger- 
mans, we like to put the money right in the fists of Ac 
people who need it; and then go away and leave them 
to spend it the way they want to. If my house burned 
down, I don't believe I'd enjoy having a foreigner tdl 
me how to build it over, and you needn't tell me thqr 
like our ideas any better." 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 237 

I was by this time in the state of silent stupor which 
was the effect not infrequently produced on me by the 
Halls. I found no words to tell them how precisely 
their invitation fell in with my wishes, and they took 
. my momentary hesitation for doubt. " We've got a very 
comfortable car," urged Mrs. Hall. " I don't think it 
would tire you much ! " 

And Mr. Hall added : " Honestly, it would make me 
a lot more satisfied if you would. You haven't any idea 
what a fool you feel just to poke money under people's 
noses and not be able to say anything to them ! " 

I thought to myself it was a sort of " foolishness " 
which I could well endtu'e, but before I could put this 
idea into words we were deep in a discussion of ways 
and means, what clothes to wear, whether cameras would 
be permitted, what to do about food. The date for the 
expedition was set. My call was over. Dazed, their 
check still clutched tightly in my hand, I was emerging 
from the hotel entrance into the street. I think I must 
have staggered a little as I walked, but the resplendent 
doorkeeper did not seem to notice. He was probably 
quite used to this phenomenon as a feature of the depar- 
ture of visitors to the Halls. 

This is not the place to tell you of that phantasmagoric 
trip to the front, the nightmare of the dynamited vil- 
lages, the carefully and expertly murdered fruit-trees and 
vines, the ravaged gardens and fields, the grimly endur- 
ing women and old men who toiled feebly with ax\ v\- 



a38 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



vrndMe determination to bring a beginning of ordcrl 
out of the hideous chaos which had been their homes. 
For mc the reCQllection of all that horror of desolation is 
shot through with the incredible presence of the Halls, 
resplendent in health and good looks and wealth and 
good will, brightly interested in everything' cut off by 
their untouched prosperity from any grinding compre- 
hension of what they saw, but somehow not needing 
to be ground into comprehension like the rest of us, ^ 
somehow not needing to put on the sackcloth of bitter-^ 
ness and passion in order to feel fellowship. 

They kept vaguely reminding me of something . 
and on the last night out I learned what it was. 

Everywhere the gesture was the same. The car rolled 
into a new set of ruins, as like the ones we had just 
left as one part of hell must be like another. Mrs. Hall 
always began at once to take photographs, methodically 
noting down the name of the village which had stood 
there. Mr, Hall got out from his pocket the wallet 
containing more cash that I had ever seen together in mj 
life, and I went off with the French officer escorting me 
to find the mayor of the ruined town. For the most 
part, the real mayor had been carried off by the Germans 
for forced labor, and we found some substitute, chosen 
by the remnant of the citizens left. Usually it was a 
white-haired man, once it was a woman, lean, energetic, 
stern, who had lost one eye through the explosion of \ 
dynamite petard. Always we found a worker at hi 
vk^rk < . • ah, the noble procession of valiant old men 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 239 

saw in their shirt-sleeves, in worn, faded, patched over- 
alls, hammer or mason's trowel in their knotted hands, 
sweating and toiling among the ruins. 

The same thing always happened. I explained the 
Halls' mission. The mayor opposed to my account the 
prompt defense of a total incredulity. Things didn't 
liappen that way, he always explained to me, as we 
vralked towards the car, he wiping his hands on his over- 
sJls. He told me that nobody gave help at once, that 
people came and looked and exclaimed and said how 
siwful and said they would write articles, and others 
came and took notes and said they would report to a 
committee in Paris, and others said that if a report were 
written by the mayor and viseed by the sous-prefet and 
signed by the Depute and sent through the Ministry of 
the Interior ... by this time we were beside the car, 
Inhere the mayor's eyes were always instantly fascinated 
by Mrs. HalFs tall beauty. 

Mr. Hall shook him by the hand and left in it big, 
caisp, crackling French bank-notes, at which the old man 
gazed hypnotized, while I tried to express to him some- 
thing of the kindliness in the hearts of the two shining 
messengers from another world. During this time Mrs. 
Hall always took our photographs again. 

Then we shook hands all around. The mayor tried 
convulsively to express his thanks, and failed. The auto- 
mobile moved forward. We were off to a repetition of 
the scene. 

When our time-limit was up, we scurried back towards 



240 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



Paris In order to reach the city before the hour set in 
our sauf'Canduiis. The car rushed forward over the 
long, level road, dimly shining in the starlight, the flaiik-J 
ing poplars shadowy, the cold, pare air blowing hard inr^ 
our faces. Mrs. Hall and I were in the tonneau, looking 
up at the stars, incredibly steady above our world of 
meaningless misery. Then it was that I learned of whafl 
they had reminded me. Mrs, Hall said to me, evidentljj 
thinking it the simplest and most matter-of-fact explanafl 
tion of their being in France, of their life there, " Ycm 
see, we haven't been married so very long, only thrcB 
months ago. And we were awfully happy to be imr^ 
ried. Of course all newly married folks arc, hut we had 
special reasons. And we wanted to have a very special 
kind of honeymoon, the nicest kind anybody ever hid^ 
It seemed silly to go to Florida, or to the Yellowsto 
or yachting, or to Hawaii, or to Japan for cherr 
blossom time, or any of the things you usually do. We'l 
done all those anyhow, but more than that^ when yc 
read the newspapers about the war and think that our 
country isn't taking any part in it you don*t get much 
good out of cherry-blossoms or surf-riding, do you? 
We wanted to do what would give us the very best time 
we ever had, to celebrate our being married. That's , 
what honeymoons are for, of course. And we decide 
that what we would like best, seeing that our Govemmefir 
isn't doing anything, would be to come to France an 
help out. So we did/* 

She was silent for a moment, whUe I slowly took ! 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUEl 241 

the significance of what she had said. Then she went 
on : " And we like it even better than we thought. We 
are happier even than we expected. It has been per- 
fectly, perfectly lovely.*' 

Then I knew of what they had reminded me. They 
liad reminded me of America, they were America in- 
::amate, one side of her, the dear, tender-hearted, un- 
comprehending America which did not need to under- 
stand the dark old secrets of hate and misery in order to 
stretch out her generous hand and ease her too happy 
heart by the making of many gifts. 

Of course, such an extraordinary phenomenon did 
not go unheeded by the sharp eyes of the elegant and 
cosmopolitan circle in Paris war-relief work. That cir- 
cle had as well trained a predatory capacity for emptying 
fat pocketbooks as the prettiest girl who ever sold ten- 
cent bouquets for five dollars at a church fair. It was 
with something of the same smiling security in levying 
philanthropic blackmail that they began to close in on 
the Halls. I heard excited talk of them everywhere. 
Everybody's mouth watered at the stories of their 
'* easiness " and plots to entrap them were laid by every 
cosmopolitan mondaine who now felt about her own pet 
" war-work " the same competitive pride she had had 
(and would have again as soon as the new fad was no 
longer new) for her collection of pet dogs, or Egyptian 
rings. 

A scouting party from another charitable institution, 
one of the very " chic '* oeuvres, nosing around our in- 



243 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



stitution to make sure they were losing no points in tk 
game* stumbled on our new press and were as awestruck 
as I had been by its costliness and speed. After this, all 
the information which I had about the Halls, scanty 
and highly improbable as you will see it to have been, 
was repeatedly pumped from me by one past mistress 
after another in tiie art of pumping. 

I became so curious as to what the reaction of the 
Halls to this world would be, and as to what this world 
would make of the Halls, that one afternoon I took the 
time off to go to one of those horribly dull afternoon 
teas in which fashionably disposed charitable ladies made 
up for the absence of their usual pre-war distraction 
I did not see the guests of honor at first, and stood dh 
mally taking my tea, submerged in the talk customary i 
such affairs, for the most part complaints of war inco 
veniences ... the hardship it was to have so few ta 
in Paris, how inconsiderate the Government had be 
to forbid cakes and candy on two days a week, how the 
tailors and dressmakers were profiting by the higli prices 
to ask preposterous ones, *' even of their old clients/' 
how hard it was to get coal enough to have a fire in one's 
cabinet de toilette ... it was one of the days when we 
had heard of the failure of a great French offensive, 
and of the terrible shortage of hospital supplies at the 
front! My tea and sandwiches were ashes in my mouth I 
Through the window I saw a one-armed soldier wtt| 
his head in bandages hobbling by the house, and I 
myself bitterly longing for a bolt from heaven to desce 



\A HONEYMOON 



VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 243 



id consume the whole worthless lot of us. Then I 
lught sight of the Halls. 

They towered above the crowd and above the very 
"small but very important person who was monopolizing 
them, none other than the Duchesse de Sazarat-Begonine, 
who was obviously engaged in opening upon them, one 
after another, her redoubtable batteries of persuasion. 
Do not let this casual mention of so well known a title 
lead you to the very erroneous idea that I move in the 
aristocratic society which she adorns. Nothing could 
be further from the truth. The very fact that I know 
the Duchesse de Sazarat-Begonine is a startling proof 
of the extent to which, in the pursuit of her war-relief 
work, she has wandered from her original circle! It 
shows, as nothing else could, what a thorough sport she 
was in the pursuit of her new game, stopping at nothing, 
not even at promiscuous mingling with the obscure. She 
was, if you will allow me the expression, the as des as 
of the fashionable war-relief world in Paris. As in the 
case of Guynemer, when she mounted her aerial steed 
in pursuit of big cash donations to her aeuvre^ all lesser 
lights abandoned hopes for theirs. 

She had so many different weapons in her arsenal that 
she was irresistible; her chateau full of the memories of 
those distinguished thieves^ intriguers, and murderers, 
the illustrious ancestors of her husband; her far- 
renowned collection of historic snuffboxes, her wonder- 
ful Paris house with its rigorously select circle, to enter 
which any woman there would have given her ^ax%\ 



244 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

her astonishing and beautiful jewelry; the reputation ol 
having been in her youth the bonne amie of one of the 
best-known of the Bourbon pretenders (or was it a Na- 
poleonic) . * , ah^ when the Duchesse started out to 
bring down a wealthy philanthropist for her Home for 
One-armed and Tubercular Soldiers, she never missed 
her aim. It was not to be doubted that people who had 
succumbed without a struggle to the snuffy old parish 
priest with his war-orphans, would put up no resistance 
to this brilliant onslaught. 

When I perceived the Halls corraled by this well- 
known personage, I shamelessly moved closer so that I 
could overhear what was being said* This was little 
enough on the part of the two Halls. Mrs. Hall smiled 
silently down on her short and majestic interlocutor. 
Mr* Hall's strongly marked face was inscrutable. How* 
ever, the great lady was quite used to respectful attention 
from those of her excompatriots with whom she deigned 
to converse, and she continued to talk with her habitual 
certainty of herself. At the moment when I came within 
earshot, she was retailing to them exactly how many 
hundreds of wounded heroes had passed through " her " 
hands to their eternal benefit; exactly the praises the 
Minister of War had given her when her red ribbon 
was bestowed; exactly how she had attacked and driven 
from the field a Spanish lady of wealth who had had 
the presumption also to attempt to aid one-armed and 
tubercular soldiers; how imitators had tried to ** steal " 
her methods of outdoor work for the tubercular, 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 24S 

nd how she had defeated their fell purpose by allowing 
o more visitors to that institution without a card from 
cr personally . . . 

At this point my attention was called away by an ac- 
quaintance who asked me in a whisper if those people 
i^hom the Duchesse had so ruthlessly grabbed were really 
he extravagantly rich and queer Americans everybody 
iras talking about, attached to no institution, who gave 
IS they pleased, dodging recognition and decorations, 
navericks of the fashionable war-relief world, breaking 
ill the time-honored traditions of that society. 

When I could resume my eavesdropping, the Du- 
ihesse was embarked upon her snuffboxes, graciously 
Iropping down from the pinnacle of her lofty exclusive- 
less an actual invitation to the two nobodies before her 
o call on her and see that world-famed collection, com- 
)rising snuffboxes used by the Due de Talleyrand, the 
Due de St. Simon, the Marquis de la Rochefoucauld. . . . 

About this time I detected an inward glow in Mr. 
Sail's steady eyes. He said grimly, " I don't happen to 
« acquainted with any of those gentlemen, but in our 
:ountry snuff-taking is accounted a rather low form 
>f amusing yourself.*' 

The Duchesse was brought up short, not in the least 
)y any intimation that she might not be extracting her 
asual due of admiration, but by a great desire to laugh 
It the unscphistication of the barbarians. For my part 
[ went warm all over with cheerfulness, and stepped for- 
ward to present my cordial greetings to the Halls. Mrs. 



24^ 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



Hall soon fell back a step or two with me, leaviog 
Hall looking down severely on the jewel-covered woi 
before him. There was a shade of anxiety on Mn 
Hairs usually dear face, " You don't suppose,'' 
munnured to me, ^* that Robert will be taken in by fch 
horrid, common old woman and give some money 
her? Men are so blind, even the best of them!'* 

I must have laughed out at this, for the Duche 
turned and came towards us, carrying off Mrs* Hall tkj 
moment thereafter, with her wonderful irresistible 
surance of conferring a distinction. I said to Mr. Hi 
moved by the most genuine curiosity : " What do 
think of the celebrated Duchesse de Sazarat-Begonu 
You know she is accounted perhaps the most chic of ; 
chic Parisiennes* Is there any other city where a won 
of her age could set the style for the most exdt] 
society?" 

Mr. Hall did not seem interested in the chic-nessj 
the great lady. He was silent for a moment, wale 
over the heads of the crowd his wife listening to 
Duchesse^ her kind eyes bent attentively downwa 
Then he said, with decision, "If that bragging old 
ridan gets a cent out of my wife, rU * . . I'll 
Margaret/' 

I thought then that my cup of diverted satisfac 
was quite full; but it ran over splashingly when, 
an hour later, separated by the crowd from the Halls 
heard the Duchesse near me, announcing confidently j 
a friend : ** Oh, no difficulty whatever. The simpli 



^ 



^ HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 247 

Lsh who ever swallowed down the bait in one 
ndlp. Hooked? My dear, they are in my basket al- 
eady!" 

I went away on that, full of threadbare meditations 
«»• the little child who had been the only one to see that 
lie Emperor had really nothing on. 

Although, after this, our Braille printing establish- 
Kient continued to benefit by casual visits from the Halls, 
»4sits followed usually by some sound suggestion for 
•nprovement, accompanied by a check, they were strictly 
Scriptural as regards the ignorance of the right hands 
^f the doings of the left, and I had little idea of what 
pvere their occupations in other directions. Once in a 
M^hil^ they carried me off to dinner in some famous 
restaurant where otherwise I would never have set foot, 
ind where my war-tired and gloomy spirits received a 
wesson in the art of cheer. There was in those delicate 
ind costly repasts a sort of robust confidence in the 
oltimate rightness of things . . . or at least I used to 
liave this fancy to explain to myself the renewed courage 
nrhich came to me after such evenings, and which may 
liave been simply the result of a really hearty meal after 
I good deal of penitential and meager fare. 

I needed all the courage and calmness I could extract 
from any source during those days, for it was at that 
time that my old school friend. Marguerite Moysset. 
was notified that her husband was killed in a skirmish 
on the Champagne front. Marguerite had akeaA^ VsysX^ 



248 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



almost at the beginning of the war, her only chili a I 
of nmeteen. The death of her husband left ber 
perately poor and inexpressibly alone. She had not ' 
for her boy's death nor did she shed a tear now for I 
husband whom she had almost extravagantly adon 
She shut herself up in a white, stem horror which fri 
ened us, all her well-meaning friends who hovered ai 
her in those clumsy ministrations which often do ] 
harm than^ good but which nevertheless one dares ; 
omit. 

Paradoxically enough it was the much-dreaded 
ing out of the old apartment, full of memories of i 
twenty happy years passed there, and the movij 
the two little rooms on the fifth floor of a dingy < 
ment house in a poor quarter of the city, which did i 
for Marguerite than all our foolish efiForts, At lentf 
aroused her to a sort of shocked and horrified liffii : 
carried her out of her own misery. 

Not long after she had gone there to live I fouudl 
with four, pale-faced, dirty little children in one of 1 
two rooms* She was heating water on her chati 
stove. " Fm going to give them a bath,*' she said to i 
pronouncing the commonplace words with a strange i 
accent, '* Do you know they have never had a h$&t\ 
over their bodies, in their lives?" I stayed to hdpl 
wondering at the curious expression on her face, 
was» as she had been ever since the blow had fa 
still very white, but now that pallor was like W(| 
heat* After the children were clean. Marguerite 



HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 249 

n in coarse, clean, new clothes, which she told me 
had sold her watch to buy, " the church-bell strikes 
lear that I don't need a watch any more," and gave 
n each a piece of bread and jam. They took their 
arture then, stricken into an astonished silence, and 
rguerite turned to me with an angry toss of her 
d, " Do you know what the war is? " she asked me 
cely. " I know ! It is the punishment we have called 
VTi on ourselves. I see now that the war has only in- 
sified everything that existed before, it has changed 
hing fundamentally. We were living as hideously 
El state of war before as now, except that it was not 
''sically bloody. There were children in this awful 
ise then as now, without baths, without food, without 
ency, while I was giving all my energy that one little 
'' might have everything, everything that he could 

\t this I could not repress a protest, calling up the 
y modest comforts of her simple home. She brushed 
aside. "It was luxurious, sinfully, wickedly 
iirious to live so while other human beings were liv- 
• as they were in this house. Oh, I see it so plainly, 
were all living with all our might according to the 
•rible Prussian maxim that you have a right to any- 
tig you're strong enough to keep other people from 
iring. All the Germans did was to carry it to its 
:ical, murdering conclusion, and show us what we 
Jly were." 
I could not. Heaven knows, deny this, but I ventured 



aso 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



a patliative murmyr. " But at least we are ashamed of 
it. Wc tried lo hide it We never gloried in it, as the_ 
Prussians do/' 

" I am ashamed of it now,*' she told me somb 
** now when I have nothing, nothing to use as help 
my two hands. I am ashamed of it now when it is 
late." 

The black misery on her face was such that I broa 
out the foolish phrase I had been repressing all dur 
the weeks since the news had come : " Marguerite dc 
cst» why do you keep such a dreadful calm? Wou 
it do you good to cry ? '* 

''W she said bitterly, '* I haven't the right to 
Look at my neighbors I " 

The next time I went back I found her two li 
rooms full of children, three small babies on the 
and a dozen or more of different ages playing togetl 
while Marguerite, in a long black apron, stirred a 
pot on the charcoal fire. 

*' Their mothers are working ! " She gave me thii| 
all-sufficient explanation, adding : " But there ar« 
many, many more that I can't help! If only I had ] 
room to take them in . . . and more soup , , * 
more bread 1 But ^th children it*s wicked to start i 
than you can carry on, and • • . I've made the cah 
tion - . * I can't possibly help any more than there i 
here!" j 

I noticed that the feverish, wild look had gone fsl 
her eyes, that she looked steadied — infinitely tragi! 



■H 



A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 251 

uit quiet, purposeful. The children had brought her 
ack into real life again. 

On a sudden impulse I left her, and went to telephone 
le Halls, asking them to meet me near there. While I 
»^ited for them, I found myself very much agitated, my 
cad whirling with possibilities for Marguerite's future, 
ly legs a little unsteady under me. I revolved the best 
Fay to " approach " them, the most tactful manner of 
xesenting the matter to them; I brought to mind all 
be painfully acquired war-relief lore about " managing " 
xcople with money, I tried to recall what I knew of them 
o that I might guess at some weakness of theirs to ex- 
ploit Perhaps I could promise to get recognition for 
bem from the French Ministry of the Interior . . . 
B^hat was the exact name of that medal they give to f or- 
^ philanthropists, of course not the red ribbon, but 
tiU . . . 

In the midst of these cheap calculations, their taxi 
'"ove up to the curb, they stepped out, and I perceived 
lat I had forgotten what they were. It was not sur- 
mising. I lived in a world where there were few re- 
minders of such as they. Mr. Hall looked at me out 
E his honest eyes, and said with his honest American 
-cent, " Well, what's doing? " and I found myself with- 
^t preamble giving them the facts, naked facts, without 
i adjective to qualify them, without a single picturesque 
t^angement. I did not even make an appeal to them. I 
niply told them all that had happened since the death 
f Marguerite's husband. I even hid nothing of what 



!« 



252 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

Marguerite had said which might seem a criticism of ||^ 
their way of life and of mine. I told them aU. Wheal ^ 
finished, they glanced at each other, their good look oil j. 
deep understanding which, in the cold, ill-smelling dty 
street was like a gust of warm, country-scented air 
across my face. Mrs. Hall said, '*I wonder if she'd 
mind our going to see her?" Mr. Hall qualified: "Of 
course if you think best not to • • . we're not acquainted 
with her. We don't want to seem to butt in." 

We found her giving those little people their noonday 
meal, hot soup and bread. Having only her small kitchen 
table and four bowls, the children came in relays. The 
fear of those who waited, lest the soup should give 
out before their turn, was painful to see. Marguerite 
glanced at my companions, surprised, and gave me l 
questioning, half-challenging look. The Halls stood 
quietly in one corner of the dark little kitchen and 
watched the white-faced clean little mites, all their inef- 
fably clear child's eyes turned on the tall, pale foster- 
mother, bending over them, serving them, stooping in 
catch a timidly murmured request, smoothing a littk 
cheek, tying and untying their bibs, wiping their 1^ 
. . . every gesture pregnant with passionate motherii- 
ness. To me she wore the look of a mother who re- 
turns to her brood after an absence and, finding thciii 
ill-cared for and unhappy, strives burningly and remold 
fully to give them their lost due of love and care. 

With the last relay of four occurred a tragedy. Scraps 
as she might, Marguerite could not bring out of th 



\ 



Uk HONEYMOON . . • VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 253 

aetde more than enough for three bowls. For a moment, 
3|ere was silent consternation. Then, sighing, without 
fsay suggestion from Marguerite, these children of the 
aoor, began dipping from their portions into the empty 
yowl. There was on their thin little faces a patient and 
ansurprised resignation. When all the bowls were 
squally full, they set to eagerly, a natural childlike greed- 
iness coming at last into their eyes. I glanced at Mr. 
Hall and saw that his lips were moving as though 
in some exclamation, but I could not catch what it 
was. 

When the last drop had been scraped up from the last 
bowl and Marguerite's long white fingers were once more 
immersed in dishwater, I ventured to bring my visitors to 
her and introduce them. They asked a few questions 
irhich Marguerite answered in her careful book-English, 
istonished and a little nettled, I could see by their direct- 
tiess and lack of ceremony. 

Yes, she said, turning a second glance of interrogation 
MI me . . . who were these strangers in her house? . . . 
Ifcs, there were other lodgings to be had in the house 
vrhere she could care for more children, the whole top 
Soor was a big, deserted factory loft with skylights let- 
fing in the sun and with windows opening on a flat-roof 
terrace where the children could play. But of course 
that was out of the question. The rent was very high, 
it would cost a great deal to heat the room, and where 
c^uld she get money to feed any more? • . . "Even 
With the number I have, you saw . . .** 



^54 



HOME FIRES IN 



kNCE 



"Yes," they said hastily^ they had seen! I toot] 
from their accent that they would not soon forget mh 
they had seen, 

Mrs. Hall looked at her hushand^ their serious, 
quent glance* He nodded, cleared his throat, and 
out his wallet, that famous wallet ! I remember 
what he said, it being of the most masterly brevity, ; 
I mean to set it down textually as he said it. What 1 1 
cannot set down is the inimitable, straight, clear gaic I 
out of his eyes, as he looked at Marguerite, everjl 
but their common humanity forgotten. He 
"Madame, my wife and I want to help you help 
children. I am going to leave five thousand francs 
you to-day, for you to rent anything, buy anything, > 
anything you think best for the children. And 
will always be plenty more where that came from, 
you to go on/' 

Having said all that he had to say^ he was sileiit, I 
laying down on the table with his card, the five big baukJ 
notes, and putting on them one of the children's 
bowls* I noted especially the gentleness with which ' 
touched the coarse, yellow earthenware, as though, 
were of great value. I wondered intensely how M 
guerite could thank them. I did not venture to look it] 
her face. 

Marguerite did not thank them at all. She stood 
fectly motionless for a moment » and then* putting 
hands over her face, she broke into a storm of 
sobs. The tears ran down between her thin fingers 






A HONEYMOON . . . VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 255 

fdl on the coarse yellow bowl and on the bank- 
notes. . . . 

Mrs. Han pulled at my arm. Mr. Hall opened the 
door, and I found myself stumbling down the steep, dark 
stairs, holding desperately to the greasy railing. We 
groped our way down, step by step, in darkness and in 
silence, until, nearly at the bottom, I called back, with 
a quavering attempt at a jest, " But how about the 
necessity of a sound business basis?" 

From the fetid darkness above me, dropped down Mr. 
Hall's clarion American accent, "Oh, damn a sound 
business basis ! " 

I found myself obliged to wink back the tears which 
came along with my laughter. 

Emerging into the gray light of the narrow street, I 
turned to wait for my companions, but when I saw the 
expression of their faces I knew I should not be missed, 
and while they stood to hail a cab I made hasty fare- 
wells and betook myself to the nearest Metro station, my 
ears ringing as though I had been hearing the loud, tri- 
umphant note of trumpets. 

I was about to dive into the anthole of the subway en- 
trance when I heard my name called and saw Mrs. Hall's 
chic little toque thrust out of a cab window. " We for- 
got to tell you," she called across the street to me, " that 
we are very much obliged to you indeed for telephoning 
us." 

With this inimitable farewell they vanished again from 
my view until months after this I ran across them, for 




» 






HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

the last time. I was at the Gate de Lyon, seeing off r 
blind soldier whom, with his family, we had been able 
to place in a home in the country. As usual widi the 
poor, to whom journeys are considerable events* we had 
been fearfully ahead of time because they were in a 
panic for fear of losing their train. I had settled om 
proteges with all the innumerable valises, baskets, pack- 
ages, roll-ups» and wraps which are the accompaniment 
of a French family, even the humblest, en voyage, had 
bidden them godspeed, and was going back along tb* 
platform to the exit when I was confronted by a famili 
royal effect in furs, followed by a mountain of magni: 
cent baggage on a truck. 

" Hello!" said Mn Hall. "You on the move too?" 
I explained my presence and turned back to walk with 
them to their train, " We are going to Italy," ex- 
plained Mrs. Hall, "and for once we are going to try 
and take Italy something, instead of just getting the 
most oat of her the way we have done and everybody 



1 



H else has done all these tourist years.'' B 

^m (I had some reHections of my own about what Italiaifl 
^m hotel keepers and guides had taken from me, but I kejA^ 

II 

shinfiB 
pnscsS 



them to myself, recognizing that as usual I was on % 
very different plane from the Golden Age of my com- 
panions.) 

" You see,*' explained Mr, Hall in their astonisl: 
matter-of-fact manner, *' you see one of our enterpris 
at home in the States is making a lot more money than 
before because of the war-manufacturing 



^^ ever b 



Fa HONEYMOON . . , VIVE L'AMERIQUE! 2^7 « 

kow that the Government is in the war, at last, thank the ■ 
tord! Of course, that money's got to go somehow to 
kiake up for some of the harm the war is doing. And 
pt's such a lot that it can swing a big proposition. We've 
fchought it over a lot, Margaret and I, and weVe decided | 
po put it into helping the reforestation movement in 
Italy." I had only a blank glare to greet this idea, so 
totally unexpected was it to me. They hastened to ex- 
pand, both of them talking at once, with a fresh, eager 
interest. I gleaned the idea in broken bits of phrases, 
"... terrible floods in Italy every few years . . . tops 
of the mountains bare and eroded , . , campaign of edu- 
cation needed ... a thousand young pines to the acre 
. - . forty millions needed - , . a fine Italian forestry 
society already existing to direct the work, but without 
funds since the war . • . hundreds of thousands of acres 
to be reclaimed . , /' My head whirled, but the main 
outlines were clear, 

" En voiture! " shouted an employee running down the 
guai. 

They scrambled into their car hastily, but turned at 
the door for last remarks. " WeVe left a deposit in the 
l>ank for your friend with the tenement-house children," 
they suddenly remembered to assure me, " enough for a 
couple of years, and then, whenever she needs it, we're 
right here/' 

Mrs. Hall, on a sudden impulse, stooped low to give me 
a good'bye kiss. " I do hope your husband gets back all 
right from the front!" she said earnestly, divining the 



I 



258 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

constant anxiety of my every moment, and then, her eyes 
shining, " Oh, my dear, I wonder if anybody ever was 
so lucky as to have such a perfectly, perfectly lovely 
honeymoon as Robert and I ! " 

The train began very slowly to move. I walked along 
beside it, dreading to see the last of those clear eyes. 
They smiled and waved their hands. They looked like 
super-people, the last inhabitants of the world before the 
war, the only happy human beings left. 

I looked after them longingly. The smooth, oily 
movement of the train de luxe was accelerated. They 
were gone. 

I went soberly back into the big echoing station and 
out into the dingy winter Paris street. 

I had not gone ten steps before I was quite sure again 
that I had made them up, out of my head. 



LA PHARMACIENNE 



When the war broke out, Madeleine Brismantier was 
the very type and epitome of all which up to that time 
had been considered " normal " for a modern woman, a 
nice^ modern woman. She had been put through the 
severe and excellent system of French public education 
in her native town of Amiens, and had done so well with 
her classes that when she was nineteen her family were 
thinking of feeding her into the hopper of the system 
of training for primary teachers. But just then, when 
on a visit in a smallish Seine-et-Marne town, she met 
the fine, upstanding young fellow who was to be her 
husband. He was young too, not then quite through the 
long formidable course of study for pharmacists, so 
that it was not until two years later, when Madeleine 
was twenty-one and he twenty-five, that they were mar- 
ried, and Madeleine left Amiens to live in Mandrine, the 
town where they had met 

Jules Brismantier's father had been the principal phar- 
macist there all his life, and Jules stepped comfortably 
into his father's shoes, his business, and the lodgings over 
the pharmacy. If this sounds common and " working- 
class'* to your American ears, disabuse yourself; the 
habitation over the pharmacy was as well ordered and 
well furnished a little apartment as ever existed la a. 



u 



3sq 



'26o 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



'* strictly residential portion " of any American suburb. 
The beds were heir-looms, and were of mahogany, there 
were several bits of excellent furniture in the small, 
white-paneled salon, and three pretty, brocade-covered 
chairs which had come down from Madeleine's great- 
grandmother; there was a piano on which Madddne* 
who had received a good substantial musical traii 
played the best music there is in the world, which is to 
say. German (Jules, like many modern young French- 
men, had a special cult for Beethoven) ; and there was a 
kitchen — oh, you should have seen that kitchen, white 
tiles on the walls and red tiles on the floor and all around 
such an array of copper and enamel utensils as can only 
be found in well-kept kitchens in the French provinces 
where one of the main amusements and occupations of 
the excellent housewives is elaborate cooking. Further- 
more, there was in the big oaken chests and tall cup- 
boards a supply of bedding which would have made us 
open our eyes, used as we are to our (relatively speak 
ing) hand-to-mouth American methods. Madeleine hm 
no more than the usual number of sheets, partly lai< 
aside for her, piece by piece, when the variotis inherit 
ances from provincial aunts and cousins came in, parti; 
left there in the house, in which her mother-in-law hai 
died the year before Madeleine's marriage, partly bought 
for her (as if there were not already enough!) to make 
up the traditional wedding trousseau without which no 
daughter of a respectable bourgeois provincial family can 
be married. So that, taking them all together, she bad 



iC^m^Bm 



* 





LA PHARMACIENNE 261 

:wo hundred and twenty sheets, every one linen, varying 
From the delightfully rough old homespun and home- 
^oven ones, dating from nobody knew when, down to the 
smooth, fine, glossy ones with deep hemstitching on the 
:op and bottom, and Madeleine's initials set in a deli- 
:ately embroidered wreath. Of course she had pillow- 
slips to go with them, and piles of woolen blankets, 
SuflFy, soft and white, and a big puffy eiderdown covered 
with bright satin as the finishing touch for each well- 
furnished bed. Madeleine pretended to be modern some- 
times, and to say it was absurd to have so many, but 
in her heart, inherited from long generations of passion- 
ately home-keeping women, she took immense satisfac- 
tion in all the ample furnishings of her pretty little home. 
What woman would not? 

Now, ahhough all this has a great deal to do with 
what happened to Madeleine, I am afraid you will think 
that I am making too long an inventory of her house, 
so I will not tell you about the shining silver in the 
buffet drawers, nor even about the beautiful old walled 
garden, full of flowers and vines and fruit-trees, which 
lay at the back of the pharmacy. The back windows 
of the new bride's habitation looked down into the tree- 
tops of this garden, and along its graveled walks her 
children were to run and play. 

For very soon the new family began to grow : first, a 
little blue-eyed girl like Madeleine; then, two years later, 
a dark-eyed boy like Jules — ^all very suitable and as it 
should be, like everything else that happened to Made- 



262 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



leine. She herself, happily ahsorbed in her happy MfjM 
and in the care of all her treasures, reverted rapidly tfl 
type, forgot most of her modern education, and becanil 
a model wife and mother on the pattern of all the oihH 
innumerable model wives and mothers in the history M 
her provincial family. She lived well within their rathfl 
small income, and no year passed without their addicil 
to the modest store of savings which had come dowH 
to them because all their grandmothers had lived wofl 
within their incomes. They kept the titles relative tOj 
this little fortune, together with what cash they had, alfl 
all their family papers, in a safe in the pharmacy, sunk 
in the wall and ingeniously hidden behind a set of falie 
shelves. They never passed this hiding-place without 
the warm, sheltered feeling which a comfortable little « 
fortune gives, — the feeling which poor people go 
their lives without knowing. 

You must not think, because I speak so much of 
comfortableness of the life of this typical French pron 
cial family, that there was the least suspicion of la^ine 
about them. Indeed, such intelligent comfort as thein 
is only to be had at the price of diligent and welt*direcfei| 
effort. Jules worked hard all day in the pharmacy, aH 
made less money than would have contented an Amelfl 
can ten years his junior. Madeleine planned her bi» 
day the evening before, and was up early to begin fl 
The house was always immaculate, the meals always <fl 
time (this was difficult to manage with Madeleine cockl 
ing everything and only a rattle-headed young girl fl 



LA PHARMACIENNE 263 

iclp) and always delicious and varied. Jules mounted 
he stairs from the pharmacy at noon and in the evening, 
lis mouth literally watering in anticipation. The chil- 
Iren were always as exquisitely fresh and well-cared for 
IS only French children of the better classes can be, with 
heir hair curled in shining ringlets and their hands 
:lean, as those of our children are only on Sunday morn- 
ngs. Madeleine's religion was to keep them spotless 
ind healthful and smiling; to keep Jules' mouth always 
catering in anticipation; to help him with his accounts 
n the evenings, and to be on hand during the day to 
ake his place during occasional absences; to know all 
ibput thfijbusiness end of their affairs and to have their 
mfrajiyf^hiuch at heart as he; to keep her lovely old 
jar^m fl6\^ring and luxuriant; to keep her lovely old 
borne dainty and well ordered; and, of course, to keep 
lierself invariably neat with the miraculous neatness of 
French women, her pretty, soft chestnut hair carefully 
dressed, her hands white and all her attractive person as 
alluring as in her girlhood. 

Madeleine saw nothing lacking in this religion. It 
seemed to her all that life could demand of one woman. 

In the spring of 1914, when Raoul was five years old 
ind Sylvie eight, Madeleine was once more joyfully sort- 
ing over the tiny clothes left from their babyhood. All 
:hat summer her quick fingers were busy with fine white 
lannel and finer white nainsook, setting tiny stitches in 
jmall garments. Every detail of the great event was pro- 
/ided for in advance. As usual in French families, in 



364 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



all good families everywherCp the mother-to-be mfl 
lapped around with tenderness and indulgence. Madfl 
leine was a little queen-regnant whose every whim wfl 
law. Of course she wanted her mother to be with h^^ 
as she had been for the arrival of Sylvie and RaouK fl 
though her mother was not very well, and detested tnfl 
eling in hot weather; and she wanted the same nucfl 
she had had before, although that one had now movfl 
away to a distant city. But Madeleine did not like tfl 
voice of the nurse who was available in Mandrine, afl 
what French daughter could think of going through ifl 
great, dreadful hour without her mother by her to cofl 
fort and reassure her and to take the responsibiHty ■ 
everything! So of course the nurse was engaged afl 
her railway fare paid in advance, and of course MaA 
leine*s mother promised to come. She was to arrfl 
considerably in advance of the date^ somewhere about fl 
middle of August All this was not so unreasonafl 
from a money point of view as it sounds, for when dfl 
made up the weekly accounts together they found tfl 
the business was doing unusually welL ■ 

All through the golden July heats Madeleine seifl 
and waited. Sometimes in the pharmacy near Jtifl 
sometimes in the garden where Raoul and Sylvie, ■ 
white dresses, ran and played gently up and down A 
paths. They played together mostly and had few littk 
friends, because there were not many *' nice '* fami&s 
living near them, and a good many that weren't nict I 
Of course Madeleine kept her children rigorously sepo^ j 



LA PHARMACIENNE 265 

ated from these children, who were never in white but 
in the plainest of cheap gingham aprons, changed only 
once a week, and who never wore shapely, well-cut little 
shots, but slumped about heavily in the wooden-soled, 
leather-topped " galoches " which are the national foot- 
gear for poor French children. Like many good mothers 
in France (are there any like that elsewhere?) Made- 
kine looked at other people's children chiefly to see if 
they were or were not " desirable '* playmates for her 
own; and Sylvie and Raoul were not three years old 
before they had also learned the art of telling at a glance 
whether another child was a nice child or not, the ques- 
tion being settled of course by the kind of clothes he 
wore. 

July was a beautiful month of glorious sun and ripen- 
ing weather. For hours at a time in her lovely green 
nest, Madeleine sat happily, resting or embroidering, 
tfie peaches pleached against the high stone walls swell- 
ing and reddening visibly from one day to the 
next, the lilies opening flaming petals day by day, the 
children growing vigorously. Jules told his pretty wife 
fondly that she looked not a day older than on the day 
of their marriage, ten years before. This was quite true, 
but I am not so sure as Jules that it was the highest 
of compliments to Madeleine. 

The last week of July came, the high-tide moment of 
lush growth. Madeleine was bathed in the golden, 
Ireamy content which comes to happy, much-loved 
women in her condition. It was the best possible of 



a66 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



worlds, she had the best possible of husbands and 
dren, and she was sure that nobody cotild say that 
had not cultivated her garden to be the best possible \ 
its kind. The world seemed to stand sttU in a sii 
haze, centered about their happiness. 

Drenched in sunshine and peace, their little bar 
was carried rapidly along by the Niagara river of 
tory over the last stretch of smooth, shining wa 
which separated them from the abyss- 

I dare not tell you a single word about those first fc 
days in August, of the utter incredulity which swiflj 
from one dreadful hour to the next^ changed to 
horror. Their barque had shot over the edge, and in a I 
wild tumult of ravening waters they were all falling 
gether down into the fathomless gulf. And there arc i 
words to describe to you the day of mobilization, 
Jules, in his wrinkled uniform, smelling of moth- 
said good-bye to his young wife and little children 
marched away to do his best to defend them. 

There are many things in real life too horrible toj 
spoken of, and that farewell is one. 



There was Madeleine in the empty house, heavy 
her time of trial close upon her; with two little chiWiti ^ 
depending on her for safety and care and cheer; with | 
only a foolish little young maid to help her; with sudii 
terrible anxiety about her husband that the mere though 
of him sent her reeling against the nearest support. 



LA PHARMACIENNE 267 

Almost at once came the Mayor in person, venerable 
and wbite-bearded, to gather up the weapons in all the 

■ houses. To Madeleine, wondering at this, he explained 
that he did it, so that if the Germans came to Mandrine 
he conld give his word of honor there were no concealed 

- arms in the town. 

It was as though thunder had burst there in the little 
room. Maddeine stared at him, deathly white. '' You 
'don*t think . . . you don't think it possible that the 
Germans will get as far as this! " The idea that she 
and Ae children might be in danger was inconceivable 
to her. Monsieur le Maire hastened to reassure her, re- 
membering her condition, and annoyed that he should 
have spoken out. " No, no, this is only a measure of pre- 
caution, to leave nothing undone." He went away, after 
having taken Jules' shotgun, her little revolver, and even 
a lockless, flintless old musket which had belonged to 
some of the kin who had followed Napoleon to Russia. 

\ As he left, he said, " Personally I have not the faintest 
idea they will penetrate as far as Mandrine — not the 
faintest I" 

Of course when Jules left, no one had the faintest 
idea that his peaceful home town would see anything 
of the war. That horror, at least, was spared the young 
husband and father. But during the fortnight after his 
departure, although there were no newspapers, practically 
no trains, and no information except a brief, brief an- 
nouncement, written by hand, in ink, posted every day 
on the door of the Town Hall, the air be^tv \ft \ife >\^- 



268 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



breathable, because of rumors, sickening rumors, unb^ 
Hevable ones . . , that Belgium was invaded, althou^ 
not in the war at all, and that Belgian cities and villagfl 
were being sacked and burned ; that the whole north eoufl 
try was one great bonfire of burning villages and fami? 
then that the Germans were near ! Were nearer ! AsiL 
then all at once, quite definitely, that they were witlfl 
two days' march, I 

Every one who could, got out of Mandrine, but wS 
only conveyances left were big jolting farm-wagoflg 
piled high with household gear; wagons which w<fl 
rumbling off, drawn by sweating horses lashed intafl 
gallop by panic-stricken boysj wagons which took yoM 
nobody knew where, away! awayl which might bre 
down and leave you anywhere, beside the road, in 
barn, in a wood, in the hands of the Germans . 
for nobody knew where they were. The frightened 
neighbors^ clutching their belongings into bundles, 
fered repeatedly to take Madeleine and the children wB 
them. Should she go or not? There was nobody to bdp 
her decide. The little fluttering maid was worse than 
nothing, the children were only babies to be taken care at 
After her charges were all in bed, that last night, Mad^ j 
leine wrung her hands, walking up and down the ro(» 
literally sick with indecision. What ought she to do? 
It was the first great decision she had ever been fortd 
to make alone. 

The last of the fleeing carts went without her. Dur- 
ing the night she had come to know that the first, tkj 



LA PHARMACIENNE 



269 



most vital of all the innumerable and tragic needs of the 
hour was the life of the unborn baby. She was forced 
to cling to the refuge she had. She did not dare fare 
forth into the unknown until she had her baby safely 
in her arms* 

And perhaps the Germans would not come to Man- 
drine. 



^ 



For two days the few people left in town lived in a 

sultry suspense, with no news, with every fean M. le 
Cure had stayed with his church; M. le Maire stayed 
with the town records, and his white-haired old wife 
stayed to be with her husband (they had never been 
separated during the forty years of their marriage) ; good 
fresh-faced Sister Ste. Lucie, the old nun in charge of 
the little Hospice, stayed with some bed-ridden invalids 
who could not be moved; and there were poor people 
who had stayed for the reason which makes poor people 
do so many other things, because they could not help it, 
because they did not own a cart, nor a wheelbarrow, nor 
even a child's perambulator in which to take along the 
old grandfather or the sick mother who could not walk. 
SoEur Ste. Lucie promised to come to be with Madeleine 
whenever she should send the little maid with the sum- 
mons. 

Madeleine sickened and shivered and paled during 
these two endless days and sleepless nights of suspense. 
There were times when she felt she must die of sheer 
Jiorror at the situation in which she found herself, that 




270 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

it was asking too much of her to make her go on living. 
At such moments she shook as though in a palsy and her 
voice trembled so that she could not speak aloud. There 
were other times when she was in an uimatural calm, be- 
cause she was absolutely certain that she was dreaming 
and must soon wake up to find Jules beside her. 

The children played in the garden. They discovered 
a toad there, during that time, and Madeleine often 
heard them shouting with laughter over its antics. The 
silly little maid came every few moments to tell her 
mistress a new rumor . . . she had heard the Germans 
were cannibals and ate little diildren, was that true? 
And was it true that they had a special technique for 
burning down whole towns at once^ with kerosene pumps 
and dynamite petards ? One story seemed as foolish as 
the other to Madeleine, who hushed her angrily and told 
her not to listen to such lies. Once the little maid b^an 
to tell her in a terrified whisper what she had heard the 
Germans did to women in Madeleine's condition . . . 
but the recital was cut short by a terrible attack of nausea 
which lasted for hours and left Madeleine so weak that 
she could not raise her head from the pillow. She lay 
there, tasting the bitterness of utter necessity. Weak 
as she was, she was the strongest of their little band. 
Presently she rose and resumed the occupations of the 
day, but she was stooped forward for very feebleness 
like an old woman. 

She told herself that she did not believe a single word 
the terror-stricken little maid had told her; but the 



I 



truth was that she was half dead with fear, age-old, ter* 
rible, physical fear, which had been as far from her life 
before as a desire to eat raw meat or to do murder. It 
was almost like a stroke of paralysis to this modem 
woman. 

For two whole days the town lay silent and helpless, 
waiting the blow, in an eternity of dread. On the morn- 
ing of the third day the sound of clumsily clattering 
hoofs in the deserted street brought Madeleine rushing 
downstairs to the door of the pharmacy. An old farmer, 
mounted on a sweating plow horse, drew rein for an 
instant in the sun and, breathing hard, gave the news to 
the little duster of white-faced women and old men who 
gathered about him. Madeleine pressed in beside her 
poorer neighbors, closer to them than at any time in her 
life, straining up to the messenger, like them, to hear 
the stroke of fate. Its menacing note boomed hollowly 
in their ears. The Germans were in the next town, 
Larot-en-Multien, only eight miles away. The vanguard 
had stopped there to drink and eat, but behind them was 
an antlike gray horde which pressed steadily forward 
with incredible haste and would be in Mandrine within 
two hours. 

He gathered up his reins to go on, but paused to add 
a brief suggestion as to what they might expect. The 
Germans were too hurried to burn or to destroy houses; 
they were only taking everything which was easily port- 
able. They had robbed the church, had taken all the flour 
from the mill, all the contents of all the shops, and when 



I 




p 




HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

he Icfl (the sight of the shining plate-glass windows of 
the pharmacy raninded him) they were just in the act of 
looting systematically the pharmacy of Larot, taking 
down all the contents of the shelves and packing them 
carefully into a big camion. 

He rode on. The women dispersed, scurrying rapidlfj 
each to her dependents, children, or sick women, or oli 
men. The Mayor hurried away to carry a few more o 
his priceless town records to the hiding-place. The priei 
went back to his church. For an instant Madeleine was 
left alone in the empty street, echoing to disaster impend 
ing. She looked at the pharmacy, shining, well ordered, 
well stocked, useful, as Jules had left it 

At the call to action her sickness vanished like a mere 
passing giddiness. Her knees stiffened in anger. They 
should not carry oflf everything from the Mandrine 
pharmacy! What could the town do without remedies 
for its sick? The mere first breath from the approach- 
ing tornado annihilating all in its path crashed through 
the wall which had sheltered her small, comfortably ar- 
ranged life. Through the breach in the wall she had a 
passing glimpse of what the pharmacy was ; not merely a 
convenient way for Jules to earn enough for her and the 
children to live agreeably, but one of the vital necessities 
of the community life, a very important trust whi< 
Jules held. 

And now Jules was gone and could not defend it. 
But she was there. 

She ran back into the shop, calling for her little maid, 



4 




i 



LA PHARMACIENNE 273 

in a loud, clear voice such as had not issued from her 
throat since Jules had gone away. " Simone ! Simone ! " 

The maid came running down the stairs and at the 
first sight of her mistress expected to hear that her 
master had returned or that the French troops were there, 
so like herself did Madeleine seem, no longer stooping 
and shivering and paper-white, but upright, with hard, 
bright eyes. But it was no good news which she brought 
out in the new ringing voice. She said : " The Germans 
will be here in two hours. Help me quickly hide the 
things in the cellar . . . you know, the further room 
. . . and we can put the hanging shelves over the door 
so they won't know there is another part to the cellar. 
Bring down the two big trays from the kitchen. We 
can carry more that way. Then light two or three 
candles up and down the cellar stairs. It won't do for 
me to fall, these last days." 

She was gathering the big jars together as she spoke, 
and taking out the innumerable big and little drawers. 

In a moment the two women, one who had been hardly 
strong enough to walk, the other scarcely more than a 
child, were going slowly down the cellar stairs, their 
arms aching with the weight of the trays and then run- 
ning back upstairs in feverish haste. Shelf after shelf 
was cleared of the precious remedies that meant health, 
that might mean life, in the days to come. The minutes 
slipped past. An hour had gone. 

From her attic windows from where she could see 
the road leading to Lorat-en-Multien, a neighbor called 




274 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE I 

down shrilly that dust was rising up in timk clotids it 
the lower end. And even as she called^ silently, com- 
posedly, there pedaled into the long main street fift 
or six men in gray unifonns on bicycles, quite calm and 
sure of themselves^ evidently knowing ver>^ well that the 
place had no defenders* Madeleine saw the while hair 
of M. le Cure and the white beard of M, le Matre advance 
to meet the invaders. 

*' We can't do any more here^'* she said. " Down Ut 
the cellar now, to mask the door. No, 111 do it alouc 
Somebody must be here to warn us. We mustii*t be 
caught down there." She turned to go, and came back. 
" But I can't move the hanging shelves alone ! " 

Simone ventured, '* Mile. Sylvie? Could she waldi 
and tell us?" 

Madeleine hesitated a fraction, Sylvie, like bcf 
mother, had been asked to do very little with herself ex- 
cept to be a nice person. 

Then, " Sylvie! Sylvie! " called her mother w*ith ck- 
cision. 

The little girl came running docilely, her dear 
wide in candid wonder. 

Madeleine bent on her a white, stern face of 
mand, " The Germans are almost here* Simone and I 
have been hiding papa*s drugs in the cellar and wc* 
not finished* Stay here - . - pretend to be playing 
and call to us the moment you see the soldiers comhii 
Do you understand f" 

Sylvit received het sTnaV\\>a'pl\sKv ^i ^t^ with con 



^ 



mdlH 

I 



LA PHARMACIENNE 275 

Her chin began to tremble and she grew very white. 
This was not because she was afraid of the Germans. 
Madeleine had protected her from all the horrid stories 
which filled the town, and she had only the vaguest baby 
notions of what the Germans were. It was her mother's 
aspect, awful to the child, which terrified her. But it 
also braced her to effort. She folded her little white 
lips hard and nodded. Madeleine and the maid went 
down the cellar stairs for the last time. 

When they came back, the troops were still not there, 
although one could see beyond the river the cloud of 
white dust raised by their myriad feet. The two women 
were covered with earth and cobwebs, and were breath- 
ing heavily. Their knees shook under them. Taking 
the child with them, they went up the stairs to the de- 
fenseless home. They found five-year-old Raoul just 
finishing the house-and-farmyard which he and Sylvie 
were banning when she was called down. " If only I 
had three more blocks to do this comer ! *' he lamented. 

Twenty minutes from that time they heard heavy, 
rapid footsteps enter the shop below and storm up the 
stairs. There was a loud knocking, and the sound of 
men's voices in a strange language. 

Madeleine went herself to open the door. This was 
not an act of bravery but of dire necessity. There was 
no one else to do it. She had already sent the children 
to the most remote of the rooms, and at the sound of 
those trampling feet and hoarse voices Simone had run 



I 



» 



276 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

away, screaming. Madeleine's fingers shook as ^e 
pushed hack the bolt. A queer pulse began to beat very 
fast in the hack of her dry throat. 

The first Germans she had ever seen were there before 
her^ Four or five tall, broad, red-faced men, very hot, 
very dusty, in gray, wrinkled uniforms and big boots, 
pushed into the room past hen One of them said to 
her in broken French : " Eat ! Eat ! Drink I Very 
thirsty. Quick !*^ The others had already seized the 
bottles on the sideboard and were drinking from them, 

Madeleine went into the kitchen and brought back on a 
big tray everj^hing ready-cooked which was there: a 
dish of stew, cold and unappetizing in its congealed fat, 
a long loaf of bread, a big piece of cheese, a platter of 
cooked beans. * . . The men drinking at the sideboard 
cried aloud hoarsely and fell upon the contents of the 
tray, clutching, cramming food into their mouths, into 
their pockets, gulping down the cold stew in huge mouth- 
fuls, shoveling the beans up in their dirty hands and 
plastering them into their mouths, already full. • • ■ 

Some one called, wamingly, from below. The men 
snatched up what bottles were at hand, thrust them into 
their pockets, and still tearing off huge mouthf uls from 
the cheese, the bread, the meat, they held, and masticat- 
ing them with animal noises, turned and clattered down 
the stairs again, having paid no more attention to Made- 
leine than if she had been a piece of the furniture. 

They had come and gone so rapidly that she had the 
impression of a vivid, passing hallucination. For aB in- 



LA PHARMACIENNE 277 

she continued to see them there still, in lightning 
flashes. Everywhere she looked, she saw yellow teeth, 
gnawing and tearing at food ; bulging jaw-muscles strain- 
ing; dirty foreheads streaked with perspiration^ wrinkled 
Hke those of eating dogs; bloodshot eyes glaring in phys- 
ical greed. 

" Oh, les sales betes ! " she cried out loud* " The dirty 
beasts M' 

Her fear left her, never to come back, swept away 
by a bitter contempt She went, her lip curlings her 
knees quite strong under her, to reassure Simone and 
the children. 

The house shook, the windows rattled, the glasses 
danced on the sideboard to the thunder of the innumer- 
able marching feet outside, to the endless rumble of the 
camions and artillery. The volume of this wild din, and 
the hurried pulse of straining haste which was its rhythm, 
staggered the imagination, Madeleine scorned to look 
out of the window, although Simone and the children 
called to her from behind the curtains : " There are mil- 
lions and millions of them! They are like flies! You 
couldn't cross the street, not even running fast, they 
are so close together ! And how they hurry ! " 

Madeleine heard some one come up the stairs and enter 
the hall without knocking. She found there a well- 
dressed man with slightly gray hair who informed her 
in correct French, pronounced with a strong accent, that 
he would return in one hour bringing with him four 
other officers and that he would expect to &wi io^^ T&3&&. 



278 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE I 

drink ready for them. Having said this in the de*" 
tached, casual tone of command of a man giving an 
order to a servant, he went away down the stairs, mv- 
folding a map. J 

Madeleine had all but cried an angry refusal after 
him, but, as brutally as on a gag in her mouth, sk 
choked on the sense of her absolute defenselessness lo the 
face of physical force. This is a sensation which mom 
erns have blessedly forgotten, like the old primitive fear 
of darkness or of thunden To feel it again is to b| 
bitterly shamed, Madeleine was all one crimson flame ol 
humiliation as she called Simone and went into did 
kitchen. I 

They cooked the meal and served it an hour lat^^l 
five excited, elated officers, spreading out maps as wm^ 
ate, laughing, drinking prodigiously and eating, with in- 
conceivable rapidity, such vast quantities of food that 
Simone was sure she was serying demons and not human 
beings and crossed herself repeatedly as she waited 
table. In spite of all their haste they had not time 
finish. Another officer came up the stairs, thrust 
head in through the door, and called a summons to them 
They sprang up, in high feather at what he had said 
snatching at the fruit which Simone had just set on 
table, Madeleine saw one of her guests crowd a wb 
peach, as big as an apple, into his mouth at once, 
depart* choking and chewing, leaning over so that 
stream of juice which ran from his mouth should noi 
on his uniform. 



lan 

I 



LA PHARMACIENNE 379 

Simone shrieked from the kitchen, " Oh, madame ! 
The garden! The garden!" 

Madeleine ran to a window, looked down, and saw 
long rows of horses picketed in the garden. Two Ger- 
man soldiers were throwing down hay from the gable 
end of the Mandrine Hvery-stable which overlooked the 
wall. The horses ate with hungry zest, stamping vigor* 
ously in the flowerbeds to keep off the flies. When they 
had finished on the hay, they began on the vines, the 
little, carefully tended fruit-trees, the bushes, the flowers, 
A swarm of locusts could not have done the work more 
thoroughly. 

As she stood there, gazing down on this, there was 
always in Madeleine *s ears the incessant thundering 
rumble of the passing artillery, . » . 

Through the din there reached her ears a sunimons 
Toared out from below ; " Cellar ! Cellar ! Key ! " 

She was at white heat. She ran downstairs, forget- 
ting all fear, and, raising her voice to make herself heard 
above the uproar outside, she shouted with a passionate 
wrath which knew no prudence ; *' You low, vile thieves ! 
I will not give you one thing more ! " 

Her puny defiance to the whirlwind passed un- 
noticed. The men did not even take the time to strike 
her, to curse her. With one movement they turned from 
her to the cellar door, and, all kicking at it together, 
'burst it open, trooped downstairs, returning with their 
arms full of bottles and ran out into the street. 

^\iid all the time the very air shook, in almo^\ Nvi^^^ 



h. 



a8o 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



i 



waves, to the incessant thundering rumble of the artil- 
lery passing* 

Madeleine went upstairs, gripping the railing hard, 
her head whirling. She had scarcely closed the door be- 
hind her when it was burst open and five soldiers stormed 
in, cocked revolvers in their fists. They did not give 
her a look, bat tore through the apartment, searching m 
every corner^ in every closet, pulling out the drawers of 
the bureaus, tumbling the contents on the floor, sweeping 
the cupboard shelves clear in one movement of their 
great hands, with the insane haste which characteriied 
everything done that day. When they had finished they 
clattered out, chalking up something unintelligible dH 
the door Raoul and Sylvie began to cry wildly, thc^ 
nerves undone^ and to clutch at their mother's skirts. 

Madeleine took them back into their own little room, 
tmdressed them and put them to bed, where she gave 
them each a bowl of bread and milk. All this she <QH 
with a quiet air of confidence which comforted the cm^^ 
dren. They had scarcely finished eating when they feJI 
asleep, worn out Madeleine heard Simone calling for 
her and went out in the hall. A German soldier, desper- 
ately drunk, held out a note which stated that four Hen- 
Lieutenants and a Herr-Captain would eat and sleep 
there that night, dinner to be sharp at seven, and dje 
beds ready* 

After delivering this he tried to put his arm aroi 
Simone and to drag her into the next rooTn. Sii 
struggled and sciestmed, ^V\ikk after shriek, hoi 



LA PHARMACIENNE 



28j 



Madeleine screamed too, and snatching up the poker, 
flung herself on the man. He released his hold, too tiii- 
certain on his feet to resist Both women threw them- 
selves against him, pushing him to the door and shoving 
him out on the narrow landing, where he lost his balance 
and fell heavily, rolling over and over, down the 
stairs. 

Madeleine bolted the door, took a long knife from 
the kitchen table, and waited, her ear at the keyhole, to 
see if he tried to come back* 

TTiis was the woman, you must remember, who less 
than a month before had been sitting in the garden sew- 
ing on fine linen, safe in an unfathomable security. 

The man did not attempt to return. Madeleine re- 
laxed her tense crouching attitude and laid the knife 
down on the table. The perspiration was streaming down 
her white cheeks. It came over her with piercing horror 
that their screams had not received the slightest response 
from the outside world. No one was responsible for 
their safety. No one cared what became of them. It 
made no difference to any one whether they had re- 
pelled that man, or whether he had triumphed over 
their resistance. , . , 

And now she must command her shaking knees and 
trembling hands to prepare food for those who had 
sent him there. Of all the violent efforts Madeleine 
had been forced to make none was more racking than 
to stoop to the servility of this submission. She had an 
instant of frenzy when she thought of locking the door 



I 



aSi 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



and defying them to enter, but the recollection oC tk 
assault on the thick oaken planks of the cellar door, zvm 
of its splintering collapse before those huge hobnailOT 
bootSp sent her to the kitchen, her teeth set in her lower 
lip. " I never will forgive them this, never, never, 
never ! " she said aloud passionately, more passionately 
than she had ever said anything in her life, and she 
knew as she spoke that it was not of the slightest conse- 
quence to any one whether she would or not. 

At seven the meal was ready. At half -past seven the 
four officers entered, laughing, talking loudly, jubilant. 
One of them spoke in good French to Madeleine, com- 
plimenting her on her soup and on the wine. " I told 
my friends I knew we would find good cheer and good 
beds with Madame Brismantier," he told her affably* 

Astonished to hear her name, Madeleine looked at him 
hard, and recognized, in spite of his uniform, a well- 
to-do man, reputed a Swiss, who had rented a house for 
the season, several summers back, on a hillside not far 
from Mandrine. He had professed a great interest in 
the geology of the region and was always taking long 
walks and collecting fossils. Jules had an amateur in- 
terest in fossils also, and this, together with the adniir- 
ably trained voice of the S\viss, had afforded several 
occasions of social contact. The foreigner had spent an 
evening or two with them, singing to Madel€ine*s accom* 
paniment. And once, having some valuable papers left 
on his hands, he had asked the use of the Brismantier 
safe for a night. He had been very fond of childrfi 



LA PHARMACIENNE 283 

and had had always a jolly greeting for little Raoul, who 
■was then only a baby of two. Madeleine looked at him 
iiow^ too stupefied with wonder to open her lips. A 
phrase from "An die feme Geliebte," which he had 
sung very beautifully, rang in her ears, sounding faint 
and thin but clear, through the infernal din in the 
street. 

She turned abruptly and went back into the kitchen. 
Standing there, before the stove, she said suddenly, as 
though she had but just known it, ** Why, he was a spy, 
all the time!" She had not thought there were such 
people as spies outside of cheap books. 

She was just putting the roast on the table when some 
one called loudly from the street. The men at the 
table jumped up, went to the window, leaned out, ex- 
changed noisy exultant words, cursed jovially, and turned 
back in haste to tighten the belts and fasten the buttons 
and hooks which they had loosened in anticipation of the 
feast. The spy said laughingly to Madeleine: "Your 
French army runs away so fast, madame, that we cannot 
cat or sleep for chasing it ! Our advance guard is always 
sending back word to hurry faster, faster ! " 

One of the others swept the roast from the table into 
a brown sack, all crammed their pockets full of bread 
and took a bottle under each arm. At the door the spy 
called over his shoulder : " Sorry to be in such a hurry ! 
I will drop you a card from Paris as soon as the mails 
begin again." 

They clattered down the stairs. 



a84 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



tiree i 



Madekine bolted the door and sank down on a chair, 
hcf teeth chattering loudly. After a time during which 
she vainly strove to master a mounting tide of pain and 
sickness, she said : ** Simone, you must go for Sister Ste. 
Lucie* My time has come. Go by our back dooi 
through the alley, and knock at the side door of 
Hospice . . • you needn't be gone more than three 
minutes/' 

Simone went downstairs, terribly afraid to venhii 
out, even more afraid to be left alone with her mistn 
Madeleine managed to get into the spare bedroom, away 
from the children's room, and began to undress, in an 
anguish of mind and body such as she had not thought 
she could endure and live. But even now she did oot 
know what was before hen In a short tiine Simone 
came back, crying and wringing her hands. A sentry 
guarded the street and another the alley» They had 
thrust her back into the house, their bayonets glitteringJ 
and one had said in French, "Forbidden; no go out ti^M 
daylight/' She had tried to insist, to explain, but he 
had struck her back with the butt end of his rifle. Ohi 
he had hurt her awfully! She cried and cried, looking 
over her shoulder, tearing at her apron. It was evident 
that if there had been any possibility for her to rua 
away, she would have done it, anywhere, an: 
where , , . 



Madeleine's little boy was born that night. She, whg 
oi course must needs have her mother to take all the 



aa 



MMHW^Bi 



^^ 



LA PHARMACIENNE 285 

sponsibility, and the nurse whose voice was agreeable to 
her, went through her fiery trial alone, with no help but 
the foolish little Simone, shivering and gasping in hys- 
teria. She was nothing but a pair of hands and feet to 
be animated by Madeleine's will-power and intelligence. 
In those dreadful hours Madeleine descended to the 
black depths of her agony but dared never abandon her- 
self even to suffer. At every moment she needed to 
shock Simone out of her panic by a stem, well-considered 
command. 

She needed, and found, strange, unguessed stores of 
strength and resolution. She felt herself alone, pitted 
against a malign universe which wished to injure her 
baby, to prevent her baby from having the right birth 
and care. But she felt herself to be stronger than all 
the malignity of the universe. Once, in a moment's lull 
during the fight, she remembered, seeing the words, zig- 
zag like lightning on a black sky, — sl sentence in the first 
little history-book she had studied as a child, — "The 
ancient Gauls said they feared nothing, not enemies, not 
tempest, not death. Until the skies fell upon their heads, 
they would never submit.'* ..." They were my ances- 
tors!" said the little Gaulish woman, fighting alone 
in the darkness. She clenched her teeth to repress 
a scream of pain and a moment later told Simone, quite 
clearly, in a quiet tone of authority, just what to do, 
again. 

Outside, all night long, there thundered the rumbling 
passage of the artillery and camions. 



^86 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



In the morning, when Sylvie and Raoul awoke, dif] 
found Simone crouched in a corner of their raotkr'j 
roonij sobbing endlessly tears of sheer nervous exbau 
tion. But out from their mother*s white, white f ac€ < 
the pillow looked triumphant eyes. She drew the cm 
down a little and lifted her arm. " See, children, a IttJ 
new brother." 

As she spoke she thrust out of her mind, with a vio-^ 
lence like that with which she had expelled the ru 
from the door, the thought that the little brother wo 
probably never see his father. It was no moment 
aUow herself the weakness of a personal sorrow, 
must marshal her little forces* '* Come, Sylvie dc 
Simone is all tired out; you must get us something to eat, 
and then you and Simone must bring in aU ycm 
can of what is left in the kitchen and hide it here under 
mother's bed," She had thought out her plan in ttej 
night. 

During the next days Madeleine was wholly unable ! 
stand on her feet. From her bed she gave her orders 
desperate, last-resort orders to a defeated garrison, 
apartment was constantly invaded by ravenously hungr) 
and thirsty men, but her room was not entered. The 
first morning the door to her room had been opened 
brusquely, and a gray-haired under-officer entered hastilj 
He stopped short when he saw Madeleine's drawn white 
face on the pillow; with the little red, bald head b^ide 
her. He went out as abruptly as he had gone in tod 
chalked something on the door. Thereafter no one cam* 



^ 



LA PHARMACIENNE 287 

in; although not infrequently, as though to see if the 
chalked notice were true, the door was opened suddenly 
and a head with a spiked helmet thrust in. This inspec- 
tion of a sick woman's room could and did continually 
happen without the slightest warning. Madeleine was 
buffeted by an angry shame which she put aside sternly, 
lest it make her unfit to nurse her baby. 

They lived during this time on what happened to be 
left in the kitchen, after that first day of pillage, some 
packages of macaroni, tapioca, and cornstarch, part of a 
little chette, some salt fish, two or three boxes of biscuits, 
a little Sd^^ar, a little Hour. They did tmsavory cooking 
over the c^en fire till their small supply of wood gave 
out. The children submitted docilely to this regime, 
cowed by their mother's fierce command not for an in- 
stant to go out of her sight But the little maid, volatile 
and childish, could not endure life without bread. She 
begged to be allowed to go out^1» slip along the alley to 
the Hospice and beg a loaf f rdii Sister Ste. Lucie. There 
must be bread somewhere in town, she argued, unable to 
conceive of a world without bread And in the daytime 
the sentries would let her pass. 

Madeleine forbade her to leave the room, but on the 

third day when her mistress was occupied with the baby 

' jshe slipped out and was gone. She did not come back 

that day or the next. They never saw or heard of her 

from that moment. 

Madeleine and the children continued to live in that 
one room, shaken by the incessant rumble of the passing 



288 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 




artillery wagons and by the hurrying tread of bootd 
feet. They heard now and again incursions into the 
other rooms of their home, and as long as there were 
loud voices and trampling and clattering dishes, the chil- 
dren crept into bed beside Madeleine and the baby, cow- 
ering together under the poor protection of their moth- 
er's powerless arms. They never dared speak above a 
whisper during those days. They heard laughing, shout- 
ing, cursing, snoring In the rooms all around them. Onc« 
they heard pistol shots, followed by a great splintering 
crash of glass and shouts of wild mirth, 

Madeleine lost all count of the days, of everything but 
the diminishing stock of food. She tried repeatedly to 
sit up, she tried to put her feet to the floor, but she fdt 
her head swim and fell back in bed. She had Httle 
strength left to struggle now. The food was almost 
gone, and her courage was almost gone. As though the 
walls of the room were closing in on her, the approach 
of the spent, beaten desire to die began to close in on 
her. What was the use of struggling on? If she could 
only kill the children and herself . . . there was no hope 



One morning Sylvie said in a loud, startled whisper: 
"Oh, maman^ they are going the other way! Back to- 
wards Lorat . . • and yet they are still hurrying as fast 
as ever . . < faster ! '* 

Madeleine felt her hair raise itself on her scalp. She 
sat up in bed. '* Sylvie, are you sure?*' 

And when the child answered, always in her stra; 






LA PHARMACIENNE 289 

whisper, " Yes, yes, I am sure," her mother sprang out 
of bed with a bound and ran to the window. 

It was true. The dusty-gray tide had turned. They 
were raging past the house, the horses straining at the 
heavy artillery wagons, lashed into a clumsy canter by 
the drivers, leaning far forward, straining, urging; the 
haggard men, reeling in fatigue, stumbling under their 
heavy packs, pressing forward in a dog-trot; the officers 
with red angry faces, barking out incessant commands 
for more haste . . . and their backs were turned to 
Paris! 

The Frenchwoman, looking down on them, threw her 
arms up over her head in a wild gesture of exultation. 
They were going back! 

She felt as strong as ever she had in her life. She 
dressed herself, set the wretched room in some sort of 
order, and managed to prepare an edible dish out of 
soaked tapioca and sugar. The children ate it with relish, 
comforted by their mother's new aspect. 

About two o'clock that night Madeleine awoke to an 
awful sense of impending calamity. Something had hap- 
pened, some tremendous change had come over the world. 
She lay still for a long moment, hearing only the beating 
of her own heart. Then she realized that she heard* 
nothing but that, that the thunder of the trampling feet 
had stopped. She got out of bed carefully, trying not 
to waken the children, but Sylvie, her nerves aquiver, 
heard and called out in a frightened whisper, '^ Maman, 
mamani What is it?" She caught her mother's arm, 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



f 



and the two went together to the window. They li 
out, looked to right and left, and fell to weeping in each 
other's arms* Under the quiet stars, the village street 
was perfectly empty- 




The next morning Madeleine made the children swal- 
low a little food before, all together, the baby in his 
mother's arms, they ventured out from their prison- 
room. They found their house gutted and sacked anU 
sullied to the remotest corner. The old brocade on tb^ 
chairs in the salon had been slit to ribbons by sword- 
slashes, the big plate*glass windows over the mantei- 
pieces had each been shattered into a million pieces, all 
the silver was gone from the drawers, every piece of 
linen had disappeared, the curtains had been torn down 
and carried away, and every bit of bedding had 
gone, every sheet, every blanket, every eiderdown qiiitt. 
The mattresses had been left, each having been cut 
open its entire length and sedulotisly filled witij 
filth. ■ 

The kitchen, emptied of all its shining copper and 
enamel utensils, was one litter of splintered wood, rem* 
nants of furniture which had been cut up with the ax for 
fuel Madeleine recognized pieces of her mahogany beds 
there. Through the kitchen window she looked dowi 
into the walled space which had been the garden and saw 
it a bare, trampled stable-yard, with heaps of mantircJ 
at each end. She looked at all this in perfect silence, thfl 
chijdren dinging to her skirts, the baby sleeping on her 



LA PHARMACIENNE 291 

arm. She looked at it, but days passed before she really 
believed that what she saw was real. 

A woman's voice called quaveringly from the landing : 
** Madame Brismantier, are you there ? Are you alive ? 
The Germans have gone/' Madeleine stepped to the 
landing and saw old Sister Ste. Lucie, her face which 
had always been so rosy and fresh, as gray as ashes 
under her black-and-white coif. She leaned against the 
wall as she stood. At the sight of the sleeping baby in 
Madeleine's arms, the gray face smiled, the wonderful 
smile which women, even those vowed to childlessness, 
give to a new mother. " Oh, your baby came," she said. 
"Boy or girl?" 

" Yes," said Madeleine, " he came. A boy. A nice 
little boy." For one instant the two women stood there 
in that abomination of desolation, with death all around 
them, looking down at the baby, and smiling. 

Then Soeur Ste. Lucie said : " There is nothing left in 
the pharmacy, I see. I thought maybe they might have 
left something, by chance, but I see everything is smashed 
to pieces. You don't happen to have any supplies up here, 
do you? We need bandages horribly at the Hospice, 
for the wounded. There are forty there." 

Madeleine knew the minute size of the little Hospice 
and exclaimed: "Forty! Where do you put them?" 

" Oh, everywhere, on the floor, up and down the hall, 
in the kitchen. But we haven't a thing except hot water 
to use for them; all the sheets were torn up two days 
ago, what they hadn't stolen! If I only had a little 



^^g HOME FIRES IN FRANCE ^M 

iodine, or any sort of antiseptic. Their wounds arc tool 
awful, all infected, and nathing ..." I 

Without knowing it Madeleine took a first step for- 
ward into a new life. " There's plenty of everything,", 
she said. " I hid them all in the far room of the cellar,' 

'* God grant * they ' didn't find them ! *' breathed the 
nun. 

Madeleine lighted a candle, left the sleeping baby ii 
the charge of Sylvie, atid went with Sceur Ste, Lucie 
down into the cellar. They found it littered and blocked 
with emptied and broken bottles. A strange hoarse 
breathing from a dark corner frightened them. Liftitif 
her candle, Madeleine brought to view a German soldier, 
dead-drunk, snoring, his face swollen and red- The 
women let him lie as an object of no importance and 
turned to the hanging shelves. They heaved a long sigh; 
the blind was still there, untoudied. Madeleine's device 
was successful 

As they looked among the heaped-up supplies from the 
pharmacy for bandages and antiseptics^ Soeur Ste. Lucie 
told Madeleine very briefly what had been happening. 
Madeleine listened in a terrible silence. Neither she nor 
the nun had strength to spare for exclamations. Nor 
could any words of theirs have been adequate* The news 
needed no comment M, le Maire was dead, shot in front 
of the Town Hall, on the ground that there had been 
weapons found in one of the houses. " You know in the 
Bouvines' house they had some Malay creeses and a 
Japanese sword hanging up in M. Bouvines' stndy^ things 



LA PHARMACIENNE 293 

his sailor uncle brought back. The Mayor never thought 
to take those down, and they wouldn't give him time to 
explain. M. le Cure was dead, nobody knew or ever 
would know why — found dead of starvation, strapped to 
a bed in an attic room of a house occupied by some 
German officers. Perhaps he had been forgotten by the 
person who had tied him there. ..." The nun's voice 
died away in sobs. She had been brought up under M. le 
Cure's protection all her life and loved him like a father. 

Madeleine sorted bandages in silence, her throat very 
dry and harsh. Later Soeur Ste. Lucie went on, try- 
ing to speak more collectedly : " The worst of trying to 
care for these wounded is not being able to understand 
what they say." 

" How so ? " asked Madeleine, not understanding in 
the least. 

"Why, I don't speak German." 

Madeleine stopped short, her hands full of bandages. 
"Are they German wounded? Are we getting these 
things for German soldiers f '' 

Sceur Ste. Lucie nodded gravely. "Yes, I felt just 
so, too, at first. But when I saw them wounded, bleed- 
ing, so sick, worn out. . . . How would you like Ger- 
man women to treat your husband if he should be 
wounded in Germany? We are all nothing but wretched 
sinners in the sight of God. And are we not taught to 
do good to our enemies? " 

Of all this (which meant in reality simply that Soeur 
Ste. Lucie was a warm-hearted vjomaxL ^Vc^'sfe ^x^\Rar 



294 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



sional habit had been for forty years to succor the af- 
flicted) Madeleine took in very little at the time^ althougit 
it was to come back to her again and again. At the 
moment she thought that she did not believe a sind| 
word of it. She certainly did not at all think that ill 
are the best of us but wretched sinners, and she had ■ 
remotely academic a belief as any other twentieth-centtiij 
dweller in the desirability of doing good to your enemies. 
The idea of Jules wounded in Germany did indeed bring 
a flood of confused emotions into her mind. If Ger- 
many should be invaded, would Frenchmen be stain 
into strangers' houses and taking the food out of 
mouths of the owners, would they , • , ? 

*' Well/' said Soeur Ste, Lucie, impatient of her trai 
like stare. 

It was none of what she had been thinking which now 
moved Madeleine to say automatically, ** Oh, of eotifse 
we'll have to give them the bandages and the peroxi< 
She could not have named the blind impulse which d 
her to say this, beyond that a sort of angry self-res| 
was mixed with it. Her head ached furiously, whirli 
with fatigue and lack of food, her back ached as 
it were being beaten with hammers. She renounced any 
attempt to think. 

" Here,*' said Soeur Ste. Lucie, staggering herself wi4 
exhaustion. '* The baby is only a few days old. Yoii*rc 
not fit to be doing this." 

Madeleine^ who had lain flat on her back for two w 
after the birth oi tW oWiet t^o ^VAdt^ia, shook her 






LA PHARMACIENNE 295 

" No, no, I can do it as well as you. You look fearfully 
tired." 

" I haven't had my clothes off for ten days," said the 
nun. " And I'm sixty-two years old." 

In the street door, with her basket of bandages on her 
arm, Sceur Ste. Lucie stood looking around her at the 
desolate filth-strewn shop, the million pieces of glass 
which had been its big windows covering the floor, its 
counter hacked and broken with axes. She said : " We 
haven't any mayor and the priest is dead, and we haven't 
any pharmacy and the baker is mobilized, and there isn't 
one strong, well man left in town. How are we going to 
live?" 

Madeleine took another step, hesitating, along the new 
road. She leaned against the counter to ease her ach- 
ing body and put back her hair to look around her at 
the wreck and ruin of her husband's business. She said 
in a faint voice : " I wonder if I could keep the pharmacy 
open. I used to help Jules with the accounts. I know a 
little about where he bought and how he kept his records. 
I wonder if I could — enough for the simpler things?" 

" You have already," said the nun, as she went away, 
"and the first things you have given out are band- 
ages for your enemies. God will not forget that." 

Madeleine received this with an impatient shrug. She 
was not at all glad that her first act had been to help the 
suffering among her enemies. She had hated doing it, 
had only done it because of some confused sense of 
decency. She heartily wished she had not had it to do. 



296 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

But if it had been necessary, she would have done it 
again . . . and yet to do it for those men who had 
murdered M. le Maire, so blameless and M. le Cure— so 
defenseless! . . . No, these were not the same men 
who lay bleeding to death in the Hospice to whom she 
had sent bandages. They had not murdered . . . as yet! 

Her head throbbed feverishly. She renounced again 
the effort to think, and thrusting all this ferment down 
into her subconsciousness she turned to the urgent needs 
of the moment. It seemed to her that she could not 
breathe till she had set the pharmacy as far as possible 
in the order Jules had left it. This feeling, imperious and 
intense, was her only refuge against her certainty that 
Jules was killed, that she would never see him agaia 
Without an attempt to set to rights even a corner of the 
desolated little home, upstairs, she began toiling up and 
down the cellar stairs carrying back the glass jars, the 
pots, the boxes, and bottles and drawers. It seemed to 
her, in her dazed confusion, that somehow she was doing 
something for Jules in saving his pharmacy which he had 
so much cared for, that she was almost keeping him 
from dying by working with all her might for him 
there. . . . 

In the middle of the morning she went upstairs and 
found that Sylvie, working with Raoul, had cleared the 
kitchen of the worst of the rubbish. In a pot-closet under 
the sink there were two old saucepans which had not been 
stolen. Madeleine made a fire, stoically using her own 
broken-up furniture, and, putting a few potatoes (the 



LA PHAKMACIENNE agy 

last of their provisions) on to boil, sat down to nurse 
the hungry baby. 

I " Maman dear/' said Sylvie, still in the strained whis- 
per of the days of terror. She could not speak aloud for 
weeks. "Maman dear," she whispered, "in the salon, 
in the dining-room, I wanted to try to clean it, but it is 
all nasty, hke where animals have been." 

" Hush ! '* said her mother firmly. " Don't think about 
that. Don't look in there. It'll make you sick if you do. 
Stay here, tend the fire, watch the baby, and play with 
Raoul/' She outlined this program with decision and 
hurried back downstairs to go on with the execution of 
one conceived in the same spirit. If she could only get 
the pharmacy to look a little as it had when Jules had 
left it, it seemed to her that Jules would seem less lost 
to her. 

She shoveled the incredible quantity of broken glass 
back through the shop into what had been her garden, 
hardening herself against a qualm of horror at the closer 
view of the wreckage there. The two big sycamore trees 
had been cut down and sawn into lengths to use for fuel 
in the open fire, the burned-out embers of which lay in a 
black ring where the arbor had stood. 

She went back to her work hastily, knowing that if 
she stopped for an instant to look, she would be lost. 
I At tioon she went upstairs, and with the children 
lunched on potatoes and salt. 

She was putting the last of the innumerable drawers 
back in its place, after having tried it in all the citt«x 




298 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

possible places, when a poorly dressed, rough-haired, 
scrawny little boy came into the shop. Madeleine knew 
him by sight, the six-year-old grandson of Madame 
Duguet, a bedridden, old, poor woman on Poulaine 
Street. The little boy said that he had come to get those 
powders for his grandmother's asthma. She hadn't slept 
any for two nights. As he spoke he wound tiie string 
about a top and prepared to ^in it, nonchalantly. Look- 
ing at his cheerful, dirty little face, Madeleine felt her- 
self a thousand years old, separated for always and al- 
ways from youth which would never know what she had 
known. 

" I don't know anything about your grandmother's 
asthma powders," she said. The little boy insisted, as- 
tonished that a grown person did not know everything. 
"He always kept them. Grandmere used to send me 
twice a week to get them. Grandmere will scold me 
awfully if I don't take them back. She's scolding all the 
time now, because the Germans took our soup-kettle and 
our frying-pan. We haven't got anything left to cock 
with." 

The memory of her immensely greater losses rose 
burningly to Madeleine's mind. " They took aU wj 
sheets!" she cried impulsively, — "every one I" 

" Oh," said the little boy indifferently, " we never had 
any sheets, anyhow." This did not seem an important 
statement to him, apparently ; but to Madeleine, her old 
world shattered, emerging into new horizons, beaten upon 
by a thousand tvevj \rcv^T^%'$AOTv^, it rang loudly. The 






i LA PHARMACIENNE 299 

Germans, then, had only put her in the situation in which 
a woman, like herself, had always lived . . . and that 
within a stone's throw of these well-filled linen-closets of 
hers! There was something strange about that, some- 
thing which she would like to ponder, if only her head 
did not ache so terribly. The little boy said, insistently, 
" He always gave me the powders, right away ! " 

Through obscure complicated mental processes, of 
ivhich she had only the dimmest perceptions, Jules had 
always given the powders - . . how strange it was that 
precisely a bedridden woman who had most need of them 
should have owned no sheets . . . there came to her a 
great desire to send that old woman the medicine she 
needed, " You go outside and spin your top for a 
while/' she said to the child; 'Til call you when Fm 
ready/' 

She went upstairs. Holding her skirts high to keep 
them out of the filth, she picked her way to the bookcase- 
Books were scattered all about the room, torn, cut, 
trampled on, defiled; but for the most part those with 
handsome bindings had been chosen for destruction. On 
the top shelf, sober in their drab, gray-linen binding, 
stood Jules' big record-books, intact. She carried down 
an armful of them to the pharmacy, and opened the lat- 
est one, the one which Jules had put away with his own 
hand the day he had left hen 

The sight of the pages covered with Jules' neat, clear 
handwriting brought a rush of scalding tears to her 
eyes. Her bosom heaved in the beginning of sobs< She 



300 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



laid down the book, and, taking hold of the counter witli- 
all her strength, she forced herself to draw otB 
long, regular breath after another, holding her heaH 
high. J 

When her heart was beating quietly again, quiefl 
and heavily, in her breast, she opened the book and be* 
gan studying the pages. Jules set everything down fl 
writing, it being his idea that a pharmacist had no olhfl 
defense against making those occasional mistakes ifi' 
evitable to human nature, but which must not occur ia 
his profession. ■ 

Madeleine read: '* March lo, sold lOo quinine pills ■ 
M, Augien Stock low. Made lOO more, using quiniiiF 
from the Cochard Company's laboratories. Filled p^^ 
scription ..." Madeleine's eyes leaped over the hiero- 
glyphics of the pharmaceutical terms and ran up and 
down the pages, filled with such items, looking for the 
name Duguet. She had almost given tip when she saw, 
dated July 30, 1914, the entry: '* Made up fresh supply 
Mme. Duguet asthma powders, prescription 457. Dr 
Millier. Drawer No, 17/' 

Madeleine ran behind the counter and pulled out Ni^ 
17. She found there a little pasteboard box marke 
" Duguet/' 

''Oh, boy, little boyl" she called. 

When the child came in she asked, '* Did your 
mother ever get any other medicine here? *' 

" No," said the grandson of the bedridden wc 
" she hasn't got anything else the matter with her/ 



-^^"-^-^ 




LA PHARMACIENNE 301 

"Well,'* said the pharmacist's wife, '* here is her 
medicine/' She pot the box in his hand, 

"Oh, we never get more than four at a time," he told 
hen " She n tver has the money to pay for more. Here 
it is. Grar .y hid it in her hair so the Germans wouldn't 
get it* ^ le hid all we have. She's got more than five 
francs, Jl safe/' 

He put a small silver coin in her hand and departed. 

The mention of the meager sum of hidden money 
made Madeleine think of her own dextrously concealed 
little fortune. She had noticed at once on entering the 
shop that the arrangement of false shelves which con- 
cealed the safe had not been detected, and was intact. 
She pushed the spring, the shelves swung back, and dis- 
closed the door of the safe just as usual She began to 
turn the knob of the combination lock; It worked 
smoothly and in a moment the heavy door swung open. 
The safe was entirely empty, swept clear of all the 
papers, titles, deeds, bonds which had covered its 
shelves. 

As actually as though he stood there again, Madeleine 
saw the polite pseudo-Swiss geological gentleman, thank- 
ing Jules* for the temporary use of his excellent safe. 

She was petrified by this new blow, feeling the very 
ground give way under her feet A cold, cold wind of 
necessity and stress blew upon her. The waUed and shel- 
tered refuge in which she had lived all her life was ut- 
terly cast down and in ruins. The realization came to 
her, like something intolerable, indecent, that she^ Majtkr 



^ 



302 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



lelne Brismantier; was now as poor as that old bedridi 
neighbor had been ail her life - * * att her life. . 
Somehow, that had somethuig to do with those 
which she had had and the other woman had not 
her mind came back with a mortal sidcness to the knowl- 
edge that she had now nothing, nothing to depend opoc 
except her cwn strei^;th and labor^ — ^just like a poof 
woman. She was a poor woman! 




Somebody was weeping and tugging at her sldrtL' 
She looked down blindly. It was Raonl, her little soa. 
He was sobbing and sa3Hng : " Sylvie said not to tomt, 
but I couldn't stand it any more, Fm hungry! Fm 
hungry^ and there isn*t a thing left upstairs to eat ! F 
hungry! I'm hungry! " 

Madeleine put her hand to her head and thought 
What had happened ? Oh yes, all their money had been 
stolen, all , , , but Raoul was hungry, the children must 
have something to eat, " Hush, my darling/* she said 
to the little boy, ** go back upstairs and tell Sylvie lo 
come here and look out for the shop while I go out aftd 
find something to eat" 

She went down the silent, empty street^ before tbc 
silent empty houses staring at her out of their shattered 
windows, and found not a soul abroad* At the farm, 
in the outskirts of town, she saw smoke rising from 
the chimney and went into the courtyard. The young 
farmer's wife was there, feeding a Uttle cluster of 
benSt and weeping Uk^ 3^ cUUd. She stared at the 



m 



^ 



LA PHARMACIENNE 



303 



newcomer for a moment without recognizing hen 
Madeleine looked ten years older than she had a fort- 
night ago, 

" Oh> madame, we had three htmdred hens, and they 
left us just these eight that they couldn't catch ! And they 
killed all but two of our thirty cows; we'd raised them 
ourselves from calves up. They killed them there before 
the very door and cooked them over a fire in the court- 
yard> and they broke up everything of wood to burn in 
the fire, all our hoes and rake handles, and the farm- 
wagon and . . p oh, what will my husband say when 
he knows ! " 

Madeleine had a passing glimpse of herself as though 
in a convex mirror, distorted but recognizable. She said, 
"They didn't hurt you or your husband's motfier, did 
they?" 

" No, they were drunk all the time and they didn't 
know what they were doing mostly* We could hide 
from themJ' 

" Then your husband will not care at all about the 
cows and pigs and farm-wagons/' said Madeleine very 
firmly, as though she were speaking to Sylvie, The 
young farmer's wife responded automatically to the note 
of authority in Madeleine's voice. " Don't you think he 
will?'' she asked simply, reassured somewhat, wiping 
away her tears. 

" No, and you are very lucky to have so much left/' 
said Madeleine. " I have nothing, nothing at all for my 
children to eat, and no money to biiy a.\v3l\v\ts%r ''^Scsft. 



J 



304 



HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 



heard herself saying this with astonishment as thou^ 
it were the first time she had heard it. I 

The young wife was horrified, sympathetic, a UM 
elated to have one whom she had always considered ha 
superior come asking her for aid; for Madeleine stem 
there* her empty basket on her arm, asking for aid, m 
lently, helplessly. I 

"Oh, we have things left to eat!" she said. She ptit 
some eggs in Madeleine^s basket, several pieces of vtal 
left from the last animal killed which the Germans h; 
not had time entirely to consume, and, priceless treasm 
a long loaf of bread. " Yes, the wife of the baker gol 
up at two o'clock last night, when she heard the last of 
the Germans go by, and started to heat her oven. S 
had hidden some flour in barrels behind her rabl 
hutches, and this morning she baked a batch of bread 
It's not so good as the baker's of course, but she says she 
will do better as she learns/^ 

Madeleine turned back down the empty, silent street 
before the empty silent houses with their wrecked win 
dows, A child came whistling along behind her, the li 
grandson of the bedridden Madame Duguet. Madel< 
did what she had never done before in her life* S 
stopped him, made him take off his cap and put into 
a part of her loaf of bread and one of the pieces ot 
meat, 

" Oh, meat! " cried the child. ** We never ha 
before r' 

He set off at a t\m atid disappeared. 



^iita 








LA PHARMACIENNE 



30s 



[ 



As she passed the butcher-shop, she saw an old man 
hobbling about on crutches, attempting to sweep up the 
last of the broken glass. It was the father of the butcher. 
She stepped in, and stooping, held the dustpan for him. 
He recognized her, after a moment's surprise at the 
alteration in her expression, and said, *' Merci, madame.** 
They worked together silently a moment, and then he 
said ; " Vm going to try to keep Louis' business open for 
him. I think I can till he gets hack. The war can't be 
long. You, madame, will you be going back to your 
parents ? " 

Madeleine walked out without speaking. She could 
not have answered him if she had tried. In front of the 
Town Hall she saw a tall old woman in black toiling 
up the steps with a large package under each arm. She 
put down her basket and went to help. It was the white- 
haired wife of the old mayor, who turned a ghastly face 
on Madeleine to explain : " I am bringing back the papers 
to put them in place as he always kept them. And then 
I shall stay here to guard them and to do his work till 
somebody else can come." She laid the portfolios down 
on a desk and said in a low, strange voice, looking out 
of the window : '' It was before that wall. I heard the 
shots." 

Madeleine clasped her hands together tightly, convul- 
sively, in a gesture of utter horror, of utter sympathy, 
and looked wildly at the older woman. The wife of the 
mayor said: " I must go back to the house now and get 
more of the papers. Everything must be in order." S^Vnsi 



I 



d 



3o6 HOME FIRES IN FRANCE 

added, as they went down the steps together: "What 
will you do about going on with your husband's business? 
Will you go back to live with your mother ? We need a 
pharmacy so much in town. There will be no doctor, 
you know. You would have to be ever)rthing in that 
way.*' 

This time Madeleine answered at once : " Yes, oh yes, 
I shall keep the pharmacy open. I already know about 
the accounts and the simple things. And I have thought 
how I can study my husband's books on pharmacy, at 
>night after the children are in bed. I can learn. Jules 
learned." 

She stooped to pick up her basket. The other woman 
went her way. Madeleine stepped forward into a new 
and awful and wonderful world along a new and thoray 
and danger-beset path into a new and terrifying and 
pleasureless life. 

A wave of something stern and mighty swelled within 
her. She put down her head and walked forward 
strongly, as though breasting and conquering a great 
wind. 



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